Symbols of religious transformation in Willa Cather's southwest novels.
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Willa Cather's The professor's house and Death comes for the archbishop treat the transformational effects of visits to the undeveloped southwest United States by European men. This thesis discusses the religious nature of those transformations. In The professor's house, Tom Outland discovers a pre-Christian, remote, and archetypal world in the Blue Mesa which fascinates him and which he relates to Professor St. Peter, who, in turn, confronts his own beginnings. In Death comes for the archbishop, missionary priest Jean Marie Latour must face the alien and terrifying southwestern culture as he takes shelter in the Stone Lips cave. His "ingestion" into the lips is a Eucharistic symbol which will perfect Latour's transformation into his own purified character and ultimately into his cathedral. The two texts depict divergent transformations, one failed and one fruitful; the difference is due to Cather's skepticism of the modern world in which St. Peter is immersed.