Instructor to direct Willa Cather seminar

Penn State Greater Allegheny Senior Instructor in English James Jaap is co-directing "Beyond Nebraska: Willa Cather’s Pittsburgh," the 16th International Willa Cather Seminar, to be held at Duquesne University on June 11-17.  Four English majors from Jaap’s English 487: Senior Seminar will be presenting at the seminar: Abandon Shuman, Morgan Shawfield, Elizabeth Hartswick and Natasha Yahya.

Willa Cather, one of the country’s greatest novelists, spent 10 years in Pittsburgh between 1896 and 1906, working as an editor, teacher, reviewer and freelance writer. She published hundreds of profiles and reviews, short stories, poetry and a collection of stories. Pittsburgh was very important in her life, but much remains undiscovered, and the seminar will explore the influences of Pittsburgh on Cather’s life and work. The conference is currently seeking proposals on various topics related to Cather and Pittsburgh. 

Pittsburgh educator and entertainer Rick Sebak is the keynote speaker. Sebak has written, produced and narrated more than 40 documentaries about the people and places of Pittsburgh. Also featured will be tenor Jonathan Blalock, writer and editor Steve Smith, and award-winning composer Gregory Spears. Panel discussions, paper sessions, round table discussions and tours will be offered as well. 

Jaap, who has studied Cather extensively and written several papers on her, said, “While only six of her stories are set in the city, including the famous story ‘Paul’s Case,’ Pittsburgh was a big influence on Cather’s career. In many ways, her Pittsburgh years served as her apprenticeship and prepared her for her career as a writer of fiction.”

Penn State Greater Allegheny is a sponsor of the event, along with The Willa Cather Foundation, Duquesne University, The University of Nebraska - Lincoln, California University of Pennsylvania, and Saint Francis University. 

To register for the event, visit