Kingwood College Library Assignment Guide

Death Comes for the Archbishop
by Willa Cather 1927
Born - Back Creek Valley, Virginia on December 7, 1873.
Died - New York, New York on April 24, 1947.

Willa Cather is known for her literary portraits of frontier life. When she was nine, her family homesteaded in pioneer Nebraska, which provided the setting for a number of her novels. She also had a fascination with the American Southwest. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Cather spent the next few years teaching high school in Pittsburgh and doing newspaper work. After moving to New York City, she worked for six years on the editorial staff of McClures Magazine. Cather won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One of Ours. In 1930 she won the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for Death Comes for the Archbishop 




 Main Characters -
-Father Jean Marie Latour, Vicar Apostalic of New Mexico
-Father Joseph Vaillant, his friend, a missionary priest
-Kit Carson, frontier scout
-Jacinto, an Indian guide

Plot -
This historical novel is set in nineteenth century New Mexico and describes the experiences of two well-bred French priests sent there to establish Catholicism in Santa Fe. During their life and work in the beautiful and rough environment, they are radically transformed, especially by the experience of the westward movement of the agricultural frontier. The story is based on the life of Archbishop Lamy, the first bishop in the New Mexican territory.

Setting -
Territory of New Mexico, the American Southwest

Theme -
-History-personal history of Archbishop Lamy and the development of his huge diocese.
-Immigrants, Pioneers, Europe
- Religion / spirituality-throughout her life and especially after 1922, Cather was concerned with the decline of spirituality in an increasingly materialistic American society
- Nature, Catholicism/Protestantism, Modernism
-Missions and Native Americans

Search for literary criticism by typing Willa Cather in the subject searchin the library catalog. There are also books about Willa Cather and Death Comes for the Archbishop on reserve at the Circulation Desk.  They are available for use in the library.

Archbishop Lamy: In His Own Words  - BX1756.L27 A7313 2000 The existing manuscript sermons of Jean Baptiste Lamy (1814-88), the first Bishop of Santa Fe.

Dictionary of Literary Biography (DLB) - PN 41 .D5, v. 9, 54, 78 - V. 9, American Novelists, 1910-1945, contains analysis of Cather's work as a novelist.

Handbook of North American Indians - REF E 77 H25 V. 4 - Several chapters discuss the relations of the Indians to the missionaries. Also, use the library catalog to search for information on missions in the American Southwest.

Magill's Survey of American Literature -  REF PS21.M34, v.1 - This book contains a brief biography of Willa Cather and a short analysis of the novel.  It can be helpful for developing a research topic.

Twentieth Century Literary Criticism (TCLC) - REF PN 771 .G271:154, 156-59, 161-63, 165; 11:95-9, 107; 31:27, 49, 54, 67; 99:165-290 - Discussion of Willa Cather's work.  Volume 99 contains a concentration of analysis on the novel.

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Databases:  Most scholarly research will be found by using databases to locate articles in scholarly literary journals.  The following links will take you to databases containing information about Death Comes for the Archbishop and Willa Cather's literary career.

Academic Search Premier- Scholarly, multi-discipline database, with many full text articles.  Choose the Advanced Search feature and select Full Text and Scholarly (Peer reviewed) to get good results.

Literature Resource Center - Full text articles from reference books and Twayne's Masterworks books.  Journal articles, some full text and some excerpted.  Search for information by author, title or use custom search to combine the two.

MLA - One of the oldest and most authoritative sources for citations to literary criticism, this index from the Modern Language Association will help you locate articles from scholarly literary journals.  Use the Advanced search screen and limit searches to journal articles in English.  This database must be used with microfiche located in the library.

PA Research II/ProQuest - Over 1900 journals in all subjects, mostly full text. Search for peer reviewed articles, and use the backfile as well as the current file.

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Internet:   Although most of your resources will be found in books and databases, the Internet can be a useful source for research about Willa Cather and Death Comes for the Archbishop.  Evaluate Internet sites for quality, scholarly level, author and validity before using them as resources for your paper.

Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation - From Willa Cather's home town, Red Cloud, Nebraska, is this site tells all about past and present Catherland.

University of Nebraska - The Willa Cather Archive - this site offers information about the author and her work.

Willa Cather Site - Anne Lindhard, a fan of Willa Cather,  maintains this award winning site.

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Page written by Susan Schilling, Librarian; design  by Rebecca Bradley, Librarian 2-19-02. Updated 8/12/01.