MINOT, N.D. • Cathryn Halverson, assistant professor of English at Minot State University, has written several books about authors of the American West. Her most recent, “Faraway Women and The Atlantic Monthly” won the Thomas J. Lyon Award from The Western Literature Association.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Halverson moved to Minot in 2018 after teaching college English in Japan and Denmark. With Michigan being the farthest west she had ever lived before, her interest in the American West took root earlier in her life.
“I think it was because I just wanted to be in the West,” she said. “I was getting my PhD in Michigan, so it was kind of compensation; at least I could be reading books about it. In fact, when I originally started, I was reading more Native American literature and then realized that part of what was attracting me was the places where they were. Once it became more regional-based as opposed to Native American-based, that just sort of opened up the field for me.”
“Faraway Women and The Atlantic Monthly" is Halverson’s third book. However, the idea for it started when she was writing “Playing House in the American West: Western Women’s Life Narrative,” her second.
“One of the reviews about that book said, ‘Several writers all have links to The Atlantic Monthly. It would have been nice to hear more about that,’ and at that time I had already started that book because I had the same feeling,” she said.
After applying for the Thomas J. Lyon Award twice before, Halverson was ready to win it, and according to the award’s committee, it was appropriately so.
“Combining scholarly rigor with an engaging and entertaining rhetorical style, ‘Faraway Women’ complicates how we think about the relationships among regionalism, the vernacular, and modernity; the intersections of genre, gender, agency, and power; and the raced, classed, and gendered politics of literary form and critical practice,” they said. “She deftly negotiates between her significant archival work and the published texts, all with a powerful and often humorous voice. This book offers readers the work of a scholar at the top of her game.”
On top of winning the award, Halverson’s book also received positive remarks in The American Literary History Online Review from Oxford University Press.
“The best of these studies challenge what we thought we already knew about a magazine, a literary genre, or a literary period. Halverson’s book is of this type,” said reviewer Kirsten MacLeod. “In a broad sense, her method is to read against the grain, and she does so in various ways to challenge some firmly entrenched positions within scholarly fields.”
Both sources agree that “Faraway Women and The Atlantic Monthly" has made significant contributions in many different fields like periodical studies, women’s studies, and modernist literature.
Now Halverson is working on her fourth book, narrowing in Juanita Harrison, one of the authors from her third.
“She was my last chapter in the previous book,” she said. “When I was in Laramie, Wyoming, I had a fellowship there, and it was in the history department. They had all these free books that you could take because professors were moving, and there was this history of domestic writers in the United States in the 70s.
I had read it long before, but I found it again, and I started re-reading and there was all this stuff that was relevant to my subject. I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll add this to that chapter, I should add that, but I can't because it's a big chapter.’ So I thought, ‘Oh, this is the next book, then I'll be able to expand.’”
Halverson has won many fellowships for research for her books, including one in Boston for “Faraway Women” and an upcoming one from the Huntington Library in California. She also has traveled for her work to Chicago, New York, Montana, and Hawaii with plans to visit Mississippi and find research from Buenos Aires.