Halverson, Cathryn 1968–
Halverson, Cathryn 1968–
Born 1968. Education: Williams College, B.A., 1990; University of Michigan, Ph.D., 1997.
Writer and educator. Kobe City College of Foreign Studies, Kobe, Japan, associate professor of English.
Modern Language Association, Western American Literature Association.
Maverick Autobiographies: Women Writers and the American West, 1900-1936, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including Western American Literature, Rocky Mountain Review, Journal x, and Literature in Education.
Writer and educator Cathryn Halverson is an associate professor of English at Kobe City College of Foreign Studies in Kobe, Japan. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and specializes in areas such as Western American literature, autobiographies, women's writing, travel literature, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature.
In her first book, Maverick Autobiographies: Women Writers and the American West, 1900-1936, Halverson closely examines the lives and work of three female autobiographers who lived, worked, and wrote in the harsh landscapes and tumultuous socioeconomic times of the early twentieth-century American West. Halverson looks at the autobiographical works of Mary MacLane, Opal Whiteley, and Juanita Harrison, three women who simply came to the West, but were deeply a part of it. MacLane and Whitely were born and raised in the West—MacLane in Montana and Whitely in Oregon. Harrison, an African American travel author, was born in the American South but renounced that regional origin, instead embracing a Californian regional identity. Halverson notes how the works of these three women differed from the pioneer-flavored autobiographies of men from the west, who stressed individualism and rugged masculinity in their accounts of overcoming difficulties and hardships. The author also sees the distinction between the three autobiographers and other female authors from the West, who often wrote from a perspective that likened their Western experiences to those of Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Whiteley and MacLane's autobiographies were constructed in a diary format, and detailed their upbringings in the sometimes harsh landscapes of Montana and Oregon. Reviewer Victoria Lamont, writing in Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, observed that Harrison found a connection between the freedom to travel that brought her to the West and the ability to function apart from racial categories and identities. In her study, Halverson provides in-depth contextualization of each woman's place in the social and cultural strata of the American West. She situates each work in the overall context of women's historical autobiography. Halverson also examines the state of the publishing and literary world of the time and how those conditions helped make the books well known and popular. With this volume, Halverson's "contribution to scholarship is of tremendous significance," commented Lamont. "Her archival research on the production and reception of her primary texts is especially valuable," Lamont continued.
Halverson's "nuanced readings of ideas of region, Westernness, and selfhood in the texts themselves are also a welcome contribution to the literary history of women and the West," Lamont stated. Halverson concludes that Whitely, MacLane, and Harrison reworked and recast existing frontier myths in order to "make a space for themselves" within the history and culture of the American West, noted a Reference & Research Book News contributor. The three authors provided detailed characterizations of the American West in which they lived, and "these innovative renderings of Westernness alone justify the recovery of these remarkable texts," Lamont remarked. "Cathryn Halverson has done a great service in bringing them to our attention," Lamont concluded.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, October, 2005, N. Allen, review of Maverick Autobiographies: Women Writers and the American West, 1900-1936, p. 291.
Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, June, 2006, Victoria Lamont, review of Maverick Autobiographies, p. 212.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 2005, review of Maverick Autobiographies, p. 270.
Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, fall, 2006, Jenny Emery Davidson, review of Maverick Autobiographies, p. 350.
Kobe City College of Foreign Studies Web site,http://www.kobe-cufs.ac.jp/ (April 10, 2008), faculty profile.