This book examines Willa Cather's conceptions through her numerous works. Hively's study combines Cather's interest in the historians, the philosophers, and the mythographers, to examine nine of her novels on three levels. First, it postulates a cyclical design, beginning with O Pioneers! and ending with Shadows on the Rock, which traces a rise, maturity, and fall of the civilization of the American West, and presents a new beginning in the final books. The second level relates to Vico's theory that language follows and adapts to succeeding periods of civilization's cycle and that genre, a convention of language, has a connection with a particular age, expressing a relationship to the world view of the time. The third level is religion, specifically the mystery religions that pervaded that Roman world and marked the early stages of civilization. Documentation here relies much on earlier critics, many of them contemporaries of Cather who, more often than do the modern critics, comment on the nationalist and religious themes of the novels. Contents: Acknowledgments; Introduction; THE LAW BEHIND THE VEIL; Cather's Novel Cycle; Vichian Philosophy; The Mystery Religions; PRAIRIE DAWN: THE AGE OF GODS; O Pioneers!; The Song of the Lark; My Antonia; THE MEMORY OF OUR VANISHED KINGDOM: THE AGE OF HEROES; One of Ours; A Lost Lady; IN MEDIA VITA: THE AGE OF MEN; The Professor's House; My Mortal Enemy; WITH ATTRIBUTES OF GODS: RICORSO; Death Comes for the Archbishop; Shadows on the Rock; SOMETHING COMPLETE AND GREAT; Notes; Bibliography; Index.