Professor emerita Linda Pratt has published a new book as part of the Discover the Great Plains series published by the Center for Great Plains Studies and University of Nebraska Press. Her installment, Great Plains Literature, is an exploration of influential literature of the Plains region in the United States and Canada. It examines writers whose works reflect the realities of history and culture of the Great Plains, such as the conquering and destruction of native cultures, the rigors of pioneer settlement, the impact of the Great Depression, the growth of cities, and the dwindling of rural communities. “Some of the books selected were obvious,” says Pratt, “But I also learned from historians and others who saw in literary works important insights about immigrant communities, racism, and the economic and geographical realities of life on the Great Plains. Those books were not always obvious choices, and I wanted to expand our vision of literary works that escape the tendency to sentimentalize the past.”
Pratt earned her bachelor's degree from Florida Southern College with a double major in journalism and English. She worked at a newspaper for three years during college, but decided to forego journalism in order to go to graduate school. She earned both her master's and doctoral degrees at Emory University, and then joined our Department of English faculty here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At Nebraska, she served as chair of the Department of English, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Executive Vice President and Provost of the University; nationally, she also served as president of the American Association of University Professors and was chair of the MLA's Association of Departments of English (ADE). It was during her time at Nebraska that she was first introduced to Great Plains literature by her colleages. Paul Olson, also a professor emeritus of the Department of English, was particularly instrumental in getting her involved by recommending Plains writers such as Norwegian-American settler Ole Edvart Rölvaag and by bringing writer John Neihardt to the university of speak on his multi-volume poem, A Cycle of the West. When Olson asked Pratt to serve on the founding committee for the Center for Great Plains Studies, she said yes, and she has been a Center Fellow ever since.
In addition to her scholarship, Pratt continued to write regularly for audiences beyond the discipline. Great Plains Literature and the Discover the Great Plains book series are informed by academic scholarship yet meant for the general reader. “I had great fun writing this book because it took me in some new directions and allowed me a freer writing style,” says Pratt. “[It] allowed me to combine literary scholarship with an escape from the lingua franca of literary criticism.” Each book presents a concise introduction to a facet of life on the Great Plains, from natural wonders to culture to history and, of course, literature. The series is edited by Dr. Richard Edwards, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies. To learn more and view other titles in the series, visit the University of Nebraska Press website.