LSCS Libraries | Research Guides | LSC-Kingwood Library Assignment Guides |

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather - LSC Kingwood

This painting was the inspiration for the first scene of Death Comes for the ArchbishopAssignment Guide

Willa Cather (1873 - 1947)

published 1927

Willa Cather is known for her literary portraits of frontier life. When she was nine, her family homesteaded in pioneer Nebraska, which provided the setting for a number of her novels. She developed a continuing fascination with the American southwest. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Cather spent the next few years teaching high school in Pittsburgh and doing newspaper work.

After moving to New York City, Cather worked for six years on the editorial staff of McClure’s Magazine. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One of Ours. In 1930, she won the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for Death Comes for the Archbishop.



Main Characters

    Father Jean Marie Latour, Vicar Apostolic of New Mexico

    Father Joseph Vaillant, his friend, a missionary priest

    Kit Carson, frontier scout

    Jacinto, an Indian guide


This historical novel is set in nineteenth century New Mexico and describes the experiences of two well-bred French priests sent there to establish Catholicism in Santa Fe. During their life and work in the beautiful and rough environment, they are radically transformed, especially by the experience of the westward movement of the agricultural frontier. The story is based on the life of Archbishop Lamy, the first bishop in the New Mexican territory.


Territory of New Mexico, the American Southwest

  • History - personal history of Archbishop Lamy and the development of his huge diocese. 
  • Emigrants, Pioneers, Europe.
  • Religion / spirituality - throughout her life and especially after 1922, Cather was concerned with the decline of spirituality in an increasingly materialistic American society.
  • Nature, Catholicism/Protestantism, Modernism. 
  • Missions and Native Americans.

Librarian Talk . . .  About Books!
  • Books offer helpful information about time periods, authors and the literary works. Use them to help begin your review of literature on Death Comes for the Archbishop. Enter Willa Cather in the Subject Keyword search box. There may also be books on reserve for your class at the Circulation Desk.
  • Apply online for a library card. Use your card to 1) Place a Hold on a book and have it sent to the library closest to you  2) Access journal and reference databases from home, and 3) Access Online Book Database (eBook Collection).
  • The catalog is online.
  • Online books (database paid for by our libraries) are available at  eBook Collection.  Use your library card to log in.  Create a free account to save favorite titles or your own notes on the books you read.
More about...Finding Books (31 sec.)

Book Cover from Archbishop Lamy: In his own words

Examples of books offering information about Cather's novel:

  • BX1756.L27 A7313 Archbishop Lamy: In His Own Words  -  The existing manuscript sermons of Jean Baptiste Lamy (1814-88), the first Bishop of Santa Fe.
  • PS3505.A87 D4 Death Comes for the Archbishop / Willa Cather; Historical Essay and Explanatory Notes by John J. Murphy. Scan the shelf area near this book to find others about Willa Cather and her works.

Reference books with background information on Willa Cather and her novels:

  • PN 41 .D5    American Novelists, 1910-1945. Vol. 9 of Dictionary of Literary Biography (DLB).  - contains analysis of Cather's work as a novelist.

  • E 77 H25  History of Indian-White Relations. Vol. 4 of Handbook of North American Indians.  - Several chapters discuss the relations of the Indians to the missionaries. Also, use the library catalog to search for information on missions in the American Southwest.
  • PN 771 .G27 vols. 1, 11, &99  Twentieth Century Literary Criticism (TCLC) -   Discussion of Willa Cather's work.  Volume 99 contains a concentration of analysis on the novel.
  • DVD: PS3505.A87 Z586   Into the Morning: Willa Cather's America - Discusses Cather's life, work and times.
  • Landscape of Many Cultures - a segment of a longer film on Willa Cather's experiences in New Mexico, Willa Cather: The Road is All. The segment talks about how she began writing Death comes for the Archbishop


Librarian Talk about Finding Journal and Newspaper Articles! 

Electronic databases are purchased by the libraries for your research use. Use them to find articles in newspapers and journals, letters, reference books, illustrations, photographs and more. Home access to article databases is available with your updated library card barcode. If you need assistance finding an article contact the Reference Librarians and they will see that you get the article. They will need full bibliographic information - and your name and address. Send your phone number as well, so they can contact you if necessary.

Use your library card to login to these online journal databases. 

 More about searching databases (25 sec.)

Project MUSE
This database is a full text, scholarly collection of journals. Use the advanced search page for the most successful results. Enter keywords into separate keyword boxes, beginning with a keyword from the title of the novel in the first search box. Enter Cather in the second box. Then add keywords from your thesis in third or fourth boxes (use the add a row option to create more search boxes).  Limit your search to Articles Only (no reviews) and use the disciplines list to locate results from journals in Literature. 
JSTOR Arts & Sciences
This database is also a full text, scholarly collection of journals from many subject areas. Use the advanced search page for the best results. Enter a search similar to the one for ProjectMuse. To view a full article click on the PDF link.
Literature Resource Center
Full text articles from reference books and Twayne's Masterworks books as well as Journal articles, some full text and some excerpted.  Search for information by title. Some of the articles found in this database will be critical essays, but some will not. Ask a librarian if you are uncertain if the article is appropriate for your research.
Academic Search Complete
Scholarly, multi-discipline database, with many full text articles.  Choose the Advanced Search feature and limit your search to Scholarly (Peer reviewed) journals to the best results.
Bloom's Literary Reference Online
Critical essays from Bloom's criticisms and articles from reference books.  Includes some journal articles.

    Librarian Talk about the Internet!

    The Internet can be a wonderful source of original documents. Browse the sites we have suggested below. Remember, you do want to find reputable sites. Evaluate for:

    • Accuracy - The information should be researched and show proof of that research. 
    • Source - Look at the domain:  .edu   .gov   .org  .net are valid research sources. Your company's website is also a valuable resource.
    • Authority - What are the author's credentials? (Don't quote from another college freshman's paper.)
    • Coverage - Does the page have the information you need for your research?
    • Objectivity - If a work is biased, use it - just make sure your professor knows YOU know. Offer both sides of issues, where applicable. 
     More about finding Internet sources (25 sec.)

    Selected Internet sites

    Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation  From Willa Cather's home town, Red Cloud, Nebraska, is this site tells all about past and present Catherland.

    University of Nebraska - The Willa Cather Archive  this site offers information about the author and her work.

    Art in Willa Cather's Fiction discusses the extent to which Willa Cather's writing was influenced by art .


    Librarian Talk about getting help!

    Support for a successful paper is more than finding the right resources. Putting it all together takes time and effort. Sometimes it takes additional help from the librarians or tutors. Please consider the following resources if you need additional help. Remember, the expert on the assignment is your professor.

    More about getting help (25 sec.)

    Citing Sources Using the Library MLA Style Guide | Kingwood College library guide. Examples of both paper and electronic citations.

    Avoiding Plagiarism   |   Excellent information and guide on how to avoid plagiarism from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.

    University of Texas Copyright Crash Course | This helpful guide on copyright is suggested by Lone Star College-Kingwood Teaching and Learning Center.

    Learning  Center   |   Check our hours for in-house tutoring.

    Page written by Susan Schilling, Librarian 2-19-02. Updated  8/12 LL

    Ask Us
    Reference: 281.312.1693
    Circulation: 281.312.1691



    LSC-Kingwood Library Assignment Guides  | About LSC-Kingwood Library | LSCS Libraries
    preload menu background image