O Pioneers! Questions and Answers
by Willa Cather

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What is the queer subtext in O Pioneers! by Willa Cather? I am considering writing my essay on the gay subtext that my teacher says runs all through the novel. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

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James Kelley eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Some people might argue that looking for queer subtext in Willa Cather's novel is unnecessarily politicizing the work, but I disagree. How could attempting to really read and possibly coming to understand a novel in a new way be an example of "buying into the hype" or letting one's agendas get in the way of real teaching or learning?

What I see in these arguments is a knee-jerk reaction; the resistance in them to such an attempt at a new reading seems to me an example of how a teacher's or reader's agenda truly can limit learning. "Queer" is a term with a long history, and you can find extensive discussions of queer theory all over the place, from academic journals to pop culture websites. It is a valid and widely used approach that can yield rich insights.

The best approach for a teacher, I believe, is to phrase everything as a question and to encourage students to explore their questions openly while grounding their answers (of course) in a close reading of the works under discussion. I don't always succeed in keeping my own views in check (who does?), but it's a good thing to strive for.

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sagetrieb eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would be happy to help out but I do not find the title of the text you are working on.  What is the project?

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tishmel | Student

O Pioneers by Willa Cather.  Again, my teacher says there is a strong lesbian subtext, but I just don't see it.  Can you help point a few out? 

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