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The Professor's House by Willa Cather
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The Professor's House (1925)

by Willa Cather

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,491327,614 (3.8)187
  1. 10
    Stoner by John Williams (Petroglyph)
    Petroglyph: Both "Stoner" and "The professor's house" deal with a small-town university professor vaguely comfortable with his family life, who fits uneasily in a new life that sorta kinda happened to him while he was focusing on his work. Both present compelling immersions in bittersweet nostalgia and the ever-present sense that life could have gone entirely different (and perhaps it should have).… (more)
  2. 02
    The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (2below)
    2below: These are both poignant stories about the disruption and disorder that results from not being where we want to be in life and living in denial of that sad truth.
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» See also 187 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Beautiful book by Willa Cather, better known for My Antonia. The story of a professor at a Midwestern university, St Peter, and his wife and two grown daughters. He notably takes retreat in the old house that he has worked in for years after they move. The most important non-living character in the story is Tom Outland, a young man who the professor tutored in the most significant way after he wanders into their life. The two daughters each married; one was romantic with Tom Outland before he died (in WW 1?) . Tom left he call in his will including a patent that is later developed by her husband and delivers the young couple lots of wealth. The story is subtle, about relationships, study, beauty and a sort of morality.
  JoshSapan | May 29, 2019 |
Not my favorite of Willa Cather's books, but I still find it preferable to most contemporary fiction. The Tom Outland portion of the book (set in the the West) was most interesting. The bleak sadness of the professor's life was never resolved, though I don't suppose it was something that could be resolved. ( )
  PerryEury | Dec 28, 2018 |
mild, sad, and lovely... Cather's descriptions of the Mesa are stunning, and I'm legitimately sad to be done with this book so soon ( )
  inescapableabby | Nov 28, 2018 |
"The Professor’s House" is a strange title for this book. The purchase of a new home may have been the catalyst for the events that ensued, but the novel is not so much a series of chronological events as much as it is the metamorphous of Professor St. Peter that is in scrutiny. Or maybe the “house” referenced in the title is a metaphor for the Professor’s spiritual abode.

Coming to terms with the meaning of life can be an exhilarating or very painful experience; perhaps a combination of both. It may be a common phenomena that occurs to millions of people every day, but when it becomes personal and happens within your own life, it takes on epic proportions. It’s not just the changing of ones mind about an individual person, place, or event. It is an awakening- an epiphany that could possibly effect your close relationships with loved ones and alter your entire life.

"The Professor’s House" was written in 1925 and while some of the events of this parable are hard to relate to in today’s modern world, the message is timeless and universal. The plot is trite and hardly worth mentioning. Some of the actions- specifically of secondary characters- are of questionable credibility which makes it difficult to visualize them as real people.

But Willa Cather does create a memorable character in St. Peter. She expertly describes the poignant and melancholy feeling of St. Peter’s realization that each of us- in the end- are responsible for our own moral and ethical compass and responsible for our own personal deeds. She captures the joy and beauty of St. Peter discovering we have no one to blame (or thank) but ourselves for the way we conduct our lives. That takes courage. St. Peter is an tenacious character.

She also eloquently expresses St. Peter’s sadness in the discovery that much of life is pointlessly filled with meaningless trivialities and accumulation of non-essential material wealth. Keep in mind this story took place almost 100 years ago- prior to the explosion of ostentatious and decadent materialism that came after World War II with the Industrial Revolution. Just imagine the fodder for fiction Willa Cather would have had in today’s consumerist culture.

"The Professor’s House" is not plot driven. It’s more of a character study. Mrs. St. Peter could have been the the focus of the story and I’m sure she would have had her own tale to tell, but I don’t think it would have been quite as interesting.

"The Professor’s House" was published two years after Willa Cather won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for the novel "One of Ours". ( )
  LadyLo | Sep 18, 2018 |
A pleasant surprise that I really enjoyed reading this short novel. I had never read a Willa Cather novel before, but she was recommended by David McCullough so I thought I would give it a shot. I loved the writing style, and found myself quickly turning pages and thinking of the book when I had to take a break from reading. The story follows characters from the a family with new found wealth, and also flashes back to life in New Mexico - both during the years after World War I. It was nice being transported to that part of America in the early 20th century and reading about people you could label "regular". I will definitely be reading more of Willa Cather. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
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Willa Catherprimary authorall editionscalculated
Byatt, A.S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph

A turquoise set in silver, wasn't it?. . . Yes, a turquoise set in dull silver."
-Louie Marsellus
Dedication
First words
The moving was over and done.
Quotations
That night, after he was in bed, St. Peter tried in vain to justify himself in his inevitable refusal. He liked Paris, and he liked Louie. But one couldn't do one's own things in another person's way; selfish or not, that was the truth.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Godfrey St Peter, a professor in a Mid-western American university is a scholarly, compassionate man who finds the tranquil and ordered life of his middle years threatened by worldy success. His family have now abandoned the shabby but beloved house where he has done his greatest work. But he cannot, and in its attic study through one long summer he reflects upon his life and the people he has loved:Lillian, his charming, elegant wife; his two daughters - Rosamond, beautiful but pretentious, Kathleen, sympathetic but lost. Most of all he remembers Tom Outland, the brilliant young pioneer whose discoveries have revolutionised their lives; whose greatness inspired renewal and passionate love but whose legacy is corruption - and betrayal. This haunting novel examines human love and human isolation in all its manifestations, expressing, without rancour, the inevitable anguish of ideals destroyed, love extinguished. A parable which records the decline and fall of her own heroic tradition, this is Willa Cather's most fascinating and beautiful work of fiction.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679731806, Paperback)

A study in emotional dislocation and renewal--Professor Godfrey St. Peter, a man in his 50's, has achieved what would seem to be remarkable success. When called on to move to a more comfortable home, something in him rebels.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:11 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The professor's house was published in 1925, when she was fifty-two. At the time she was an author with a worldwide reputation, having won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One of ours. Reaching the top of her profession had produced a letdown, and she later wrote that around the time she won the Pulitzer she had felt that for her the world had broken in two. The situation of the professor in this novel reflects the troubled time in Cather's own life. Behind this story of Godfrey St. Peter, a man who, despite his successes, has at mid-career experienced a profound disappointment with life, is the fierce story of how he decides to continue living despite his disappointment. Sandwiched between St. Peter's stories is the thrilling tale of his one brilliant student, Tom Outland, who discovers the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Profound and disturbing, The professor's house has taken its place as one of its author's most important works.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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