Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Professor’s old house

Professor’s old house. Located adjacent to the college campus at which the professor teaches, the old, oddly built but simple house of Professor St. Peter has for more than two decades been the site of his marital, family, scholarly, and artistic happiness. It is here that he tends his French-influenced garden, a testimony to his preference for the aesthetic superiority of long-established cultures. In this old house, also, is the attic room, spartan in furnishings and unheated, but the location of the professor’s work on his great scholarly and artistic efforts, his multivolume history of the great Spanish explorers of the Americas. Even though, as the novel opens, the family’s belongings have been moved to a new house, the professor continues over many months to come back to his old house and his old attic room to think and to write. It is here in the old house that he reconsiders his life’s efforts and his link to Tom Outland. It is also here that in some despair he nearly gives in to “accidental” death by gas fumes from a faulty heater. His rescue by the faithful seamstress Augusta provides the professor the opportunity to recognize that he would have “to live without delight” in the future.

Professor’s new house

Professor’s new house. Built with funds from the prize money the professor has won because of his distinguished contributions to history, this house has all the modern conveniences possible, but it also is the site of growing family dissension, perhaps best indicated by the separate rooms and baths for the...

(The entire section is 660 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Willa Cather. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. A collection of studies of Cather. Two important and very different interpretations of The Professor’s House appear in essays by David Daiches and E. K. Brown. The place to start.

Leddy, Michael. “The Professor’s House: The Sense of an Ending.” Studies in the Novel 23 (Winter, 1991): 443-451. Believes the ending makes a valid point although appearing vague. The fact that the professor is able to rediscover his boyhood home in Kansas points to a renewal or rebirth at the end.

Love, Glen A. “The Professor’s House: Cather, Hemingway, and the Chastening of American Prose Style.” Western American Literature 24 (February, 1990): 295-311. Says Cather’s writing style is closer to the modern style because of her economy and lack of emotion. Uses The Professor’s House as an example of that prose style.

O’Brien, Sharon. Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Says the professor is the alter ego of Cather.

Stout, Janis P. “Autobiography as Journey in The Professor’s House.” Studies in American Fiction 19 (Autumn, 1991): 203-215. Examines the writing of autobiography and the boundaries between literature and life. Specifically looks at Cather’s travels and how these affect her inspirations and writing of The Professor’s House.

Yongue, Patricia Lee. “Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House and Dutch Genre Painting.” Renascence 31 (Spring, 1979): 155-167. Equates a pictorial, psychological, and structural significance with “Tom Outland’s Story.” The professor’s house was made to look like a Dutch painting. Places emphasis on visualizing the description as if it were a picture.