Homestead receives NEH grant for Cather Summer Institute

Photo credit: Craig Chandler | University Communications

August 16, 2022

Melissa Homestead has received an NEH Institute for Higher Education Faculty grant for “Willa Cather: Place and Archive,” a summer institute that will bring 25 scholars from across the country to UNL’s campus—and Willa Cather’s hometown of Red Cloud, NE—in July 2023.

NEH-funded institutes are professional development programs for higher education faculty that aim to deepen their understanding of significant topics in the humanities and enrich their capacity for effective scholarship and teaching. “Willa Cather: Place and Archive” will explore place-based and archival approaches to Willa Cather’s life and works. As the home of The Cather Project, the Willa Cather Archive, and the UNL Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections, UNL offers participants unparalleled access to unparalleled archival holdings of Cather materials, collaboration with fellow scholars and scholarly projects, and the expertise of a leading center for digital humanities.

In addition to their time at UNL, participants will experience landscapes and buildings represented in Cather’s fiction at the National Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud. These places function as a kind of archive, and as such, the institute will take a critical approach to three kinds of archives—special collections, digital resources, and place—and consider how they are mediated and what is absent. Cather’s fiction often celebrated the achievements of recent European immigrants who settled on the Great Plains, but ignored the then-recent forced relocations of indigenous people to make way for settlement; both the European immigrant presence and absence of the Pawnee will receive particular attention during the institute.

The Cather Project, directed by Dr. Homestead, promotes teaching and research about Cather at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and beyond. Designated a Program of Excellence by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in 2002, the Cather Project produces the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition and Cather Studies, supports research by UNL English department faculty and students on Cather, brings scholars from outside of UNL to present on Cather and conduct research in UNL Special Collections, and organizes conferences and other events.

Two library faculty with Ph.D.s from UNL English will participate in the institute as project faculty: Emily Rau, Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities and Director of the Willa Cather Archive, and Andrew Jewell, Professor of Digital Projects, Co-Director of the CDRH, and Chair of Digital Strategies.