Nebraska is one of the ‘Great Plains’ states and was at one time part of the ‘Great American Desert’, although it is now rich agricultural land. It has made a significant contribution to the literature of the United States, with its evocative and atmospheric plains serving as background for both Westerns and contemporary works, which use the state as a setting for small town dramas and as a symbol of the state of union in general.
In terms of literature, the works of Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather offer a depiction of the early years of both America and the state of Nebraska. Writing in the early 20th century, her most famous writings, such as My Antonia, One of Ours and O Pioneers!, elucidate the way of life of native Nebraskans who struggle to cope with a fledgling modernity.
Bess Streeter Aldrich, who wrote at a similar time to Cather was one of the most popular female writers of her time. Her books evoke a personal sense of morality and the hardships of living in the Midwest. Richard Powers is a novelist who has been critically praised for his maximalist style and for engaging with modern scientific themes. He wrote the widely praised The Echo Maker which is set along the River Platte in Nebraska.
Terms of Endearment is one of the most popular films to appear in the last few decades and was the recipient of several Oscars. This romantic, nostalgic and mournful film uses small town Nebraska as the setting for a family drama.
Nebraska’s musical output has been widely celebrated in recent years with the band Bright Eyes the most famous representative of the thriving Omaha indie scene. Bruce Springsteen’s haunting and evocative album Nebraska uses folk music to dramatise the lives of the rural population of the state in Springsteen’s own inimitable style.