Sapphira and the Slave Girl


Sapphira and the Slave Girl

Scholarly Edition

Willa Cather
Historical Essay and Explanatory Notes by Ann Romines
Textual Essay and Editing by Charles W. Mignon, Kari A. Ronning, and Frederick M. Link

Willa Cather Scholarly Edition Series

774 pages
52 illustrations, 1 map


July 2009


$90.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Willa Cather’s twelfth and final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, is her most intense fictional engagement with political and personal conflict. Set in Cather’s Virginia birthplace in 1856, the novel draws on family and local history and the escalating conflicts of the last years of slavery—conflicts in which Cather’s family members were deeply involved, both as slave owners and as opponents of slavery. Cather, at five years old, appears as a character in an unprecedented first-person epilogue. Tapping her earliest memories, Cather powerfully and sparely renders a Virginia world that is simultaneously beautiful and, as she said, “terrible.”
The historical essay and explanatory notes explore the novel’s grounding in family, local, and national history; show how southern cultures continually shaped Cather’s life and work, culminating with this novel; and trace the progress of Cather’s research and composition during years of grief and loss that she described as the worst of her life. More early drafts, including manuscript fragments, are available for Sapphira and the Slave Girl than for any other Cather novel, and the revealing textual essay draws on this rich resource to provide new insights into Cather’s composition process.

Author Bio

Ann Romines, a professor of English at the George Washington University, is a well-known Cather scholar. She is the author and editor of several books, including Willa Cather’s Southern Connections: New Essays on Cather and the South.
Charles W. Mignon and Frederick M. Link are both professors emeritus of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and textual editors of the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition series.
Kari A. Ronning is a research associate professor of English, assistant editor of the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition series, and codirector of the Willa Cather Journalism project at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


"The most significant achievement of this edition is that it will help scholars at every level understand the novel as evidence of Cather's involvement in public intellectual debates of her era, as well as of her complex personal involvement with the interrelation of memory, aesthetics, loss, and aging."—Robin Hackett, Great Plains Quarterly

Table of Contents


Sapphira and the Slave Girl


Historical Apparatus:

Historical Essay

Illustrations     following page 000

Explanatory Notes

Textual Apparatus:

Textual Essay

Appendixes to the Textual Essay


Notes on Emendations

Table of Rejected Substantives

Word Division

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