Critical studies of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather tend to associate Cather with the unsettled, pioneering West and Wharton with the excessive, sophisticated East. Commonalities between the two, especially their similar attitudes concerning place and culture, rarely feature in scholars' treatment of these early-twentieth-century writers. It is this misconception that Julie Olin-Ammentorp challenges in Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, and the Place of Culture. The book is a comparative study of Wharton and Cather, who never met, but who nevertheless influenced one another, traveled the same regions at different times, and concerned themselves with similar issues in regard to American culture. Olin-Ammentorp concentrates on “place as an axis of organization” (3), rightly arguing that it is a frequently “underused tool, [which] encourag[es] us to think in ways that are historically, geographically, and literarily valuable” (3).

In Olin-Ammentorp's reading of Wharton and Cather, an emphasis on geographic places “highlights the proximity...

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