Some of Willa Cather’s earliest published work was at the University of Nebraska’s student newspaper, the Hesperian (now the Daily Nebraskan). She served as its first literary editor and then as managing editor.
Later, in her acclaimed novels, short stories and poems, Cather would depict her characters in such diverse locales as New Mexico, the World War I battlefields of France and colonial Quebec. But it was her nostalgic and insightful examinations of the immigrants and frontier life she knew so well that transported readers from around the world to Nebraska. Willa Cather’s novel “One of Ours” was awarded the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for Literature, one of 14 Pulitzers won by University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty and alumni.
Her novels established Cather as a central figure in American letters. After Cather’s death, UNL figures such as Bernice Slote (Willa Cather scholar and editor of Prairie Schooner) and Virginia Faulkner (editor at the University of Nebraska Press) kept the Cather flame burning. Her works were included in the Nebraska English curriculum developed at the university for use by Nebraska public schools.
Cather’s writing also lives on through the digital scholarship work of the university’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, which helped the university rank 17th in National Endowment for the Humanities funding over the past decade. Projects include the Willa Cather Archive, the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Online and the Walt Whitman Archive. The center also has several projects important to preserving the language and heritage of two Nebraska tribes — the Ponca and the Omaha; another was the digitization of emancipation documents of more than 3,000 enslaved people who lived in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War.
With more than 40 projects underway involving dozens of scholars at Nebraska and other locations, the center also has undergraduate and graduate students engaged in research, offering a graduate certification and an undergraduate minor.