This work aims to explore the nature of Vergilian allusion in the novels of Willa Cather - how the author implicated classical language in her own texts as well as the purpose and efficacy of such allusions. By surveying traces of Vergilian passages and rhetorical techniques such as ecphrasis and anacolouthon across three of the writer's major novels, My Antonia, The Professor's House and Shadows on the Rock, this study reveals an important and persistent aspect of Cather's artistic program. The author intentionally and regularly uses Vergilian language and figures to lend a sense of grandeur to the small, individual lives of her characters, to suggest a sense of the infinite in the infinitesimal. Moreover this study will also demonstrate that such moments of epic insight rarely last and that Cather plays up not only the elevation of such moods but highlights equally the fading of such moments to reveal a bitter-sweet tragic beauty in the human condition.


Anne O'Meara

First Committee Member

Heather Camp

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)




Arts and Humanities

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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