Understanding O Pioneers! and My Antonia: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002 - 223 pages

Willa Cather's novels Oh Pioneers! and My Ántonia are at once accurate representations of life on the midwestern prairies in the era of their first settlement and continuations of a literary tradition that stretches back to Virgil and other classical writers who celebrated nature and pondered humanity's place within it. Both novels are given full literary treatment here with close examination of the timeless themes of love, loss, the transience of youth, and the influence of the land itself on people's lives. For readers who want to go beyond the subjects of these novels, to enter the places and eras Cather immortalized in her writing, this casebook also situates the two novels within their historical contexts with a rich array of documentation. Letters and journals from the late 1800s and early 1900s help readers understand the hardships and rewards of everyday life on the plains. Poignant personal accounts as well as government reports document the special challenges women and immigrants faced on the frontier. Readers will also be able to explore how the issues in Cather's novels continue to shape American culture today. Reports from congressional hearings and personal interviews give varied perspectives on the disappearance of the family farm and an USDA timeline chronicles the causes and ongoing ramifications of this important issue.

Students and their teachers will find a wealth of valuable information for their classroom discussions and research projects in this interdisciplinary casebook. Each topic chapter offers ideas for oral and written exploration as well as lists of further suggested readings. Students will not only gain a better understanding of Cather's novels here, but will be able to make connections between their thematic concerns and contemporary social issues.

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Contents

Fleeting Moments of Beauty A Literary Analysis of O Pioneers and My Ántonia
1
Everyday Life on the Plains
25
FROM ALL ABOUT HOMESTEADS 1871
29
FROM WG EDMUNDSON PRAIRIE FARMINGBREAKING THE SOD 1852
32
FROM JOHN TURNER MARBLE AND SOD HOUSES 1903
34
FROM JOHN TURNER THE BIG BLIZZARD OF 73 1903
37
FROM ALBERT WATKINS HISTORY OF NEBRASKA 1913
43
FROM JOHN TURNER GRASSHOPPER PLAGUE AND AID TO SUFFERERS 1903
45
FROM JOSEPH ALEXIS SWEDES IN NEBRASKA 1919
107
FROM OLE OLESON LETTERS TO HIS BROTHER IN SWEDEN 1890
110
FROM JOHN THOMPSON LETTERS TO HIS MOTHER IN SWEDEN CA 1890
112
VISIONS OF THE PAST 1980
115
FROM D AIDAN MCQUILLAN FRENCHCANADIAN COMMUNITIES IN THE UPPER MIDWEST DURING THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 1983
119
IN RUSSIA AND THE AMERICAS FROM 1763 TO THE PRESENT 1977
121
Women on the Frontier
129
FROM REBECCA CULBERTSON HUTCHINSON LETTERS HOME 188586
141

FROM A GRASSHOPPER STORY 1875
47
FROM GEORGE W SLADE PIONEERING IN BOONE COUNTY 1922
50
FROM JE GREEN PIONEERING IN BOONE COUNTY 1923
52
The Coming of the Railroad
57
FROM AT ANDREAS RAILROADS 1882
66
FROM LLOYD LEWIS AND STANLEY PARGELLIS GRANGER COUNTRY 1949
70
FROM JOHN R BUCHANAN THE GREAT RAILROAD MIGRATION INTO NORTHERN NEBRASKA 1902
75
FROM LETTER FROM WILLIAM HAGGE 1875
77
FROM LETTER FROM RW HAZEN 1875
78
FROM LETTER FROM JAMES JACKSON 1875
79
THE NECESSITY OF ENACTING A STRINGENT STATE LAW 1884
81
FROM WILLA CATHER A LOST LADY 1923
84
Another Country Another Language ForeignBorn Pioneers
89
FROM ROSE ROSICKY A HISTORY OF CZECHS BOHEMIANS IN NEBRASKA 1929
97
AN ETHNIC DILEMMA 1993
100
FROM SARKA B HRBKOVA BOHEMIANS IN NEBRASKA 1919
104
FROM JULIA BAPTIST LETTERS HOME 188588
144
FROM MARTHA THOMAS OBLINGER LETTERS HOME 187374
148
FROM MARY MARGARET PIKE HARPSTER PERSONAL DIARY 188589
155
FROM THE LADIES 1885
161
FROM ADA BITTENBENDER HISTORY OF THE WOMENS CHRISTIAN TEMPERANCE UNION IN NEBRASKA 1892
165
The Disappearance of the Family Farm
171
FARMERS AND THE LAND 2001
183
FROM JEFFREY L PASLEY THE IDIOCY OF RURAL LIFE 1986
192
FROM CHARLES HATCHER THE FUTURE OF FAMILY FARMING 1985
198
FROM GARLAND THOMPSON THE FUTURE OF FAMILY FARMING 1985
199
FROM DONNIE DOLES THE FUTURE OF FAMILY FARMING 1985
201
FROM NEAL TALTON THE FUTURE OF FAMILY FARMING 1985
202
A PERSONAL INTERVIEW 2000
205
A PERSONAL INTERVIEW 2000
208
Index
215
Copyright

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Page 13 - HERACLITUS THEY told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead ; They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed. I wept as I remembered, how often you and I Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky. And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest, A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest, Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake ; For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
Page 179 - Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth...
Page 16 - Antonia kicking her bare legs against the sides of my pony when we came home in triumph with our snake ; Antonia in her black shawl and fur cap, as she stood by her father's grave in the snowstorm ; Antonia coming in with her work-team along the evening skyline. She lent herself to immemorial human attitudes which we recognize by instinct as universal and true.
Page 48 - For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious. Her eyes drank in the breadth of it, until her tears blinded her. Then the Genius of the Divide, the great, free spirit which breathes across it, must have bent lower than it ever bent to a human will before. The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.
Page 28 - There seemed to be nothing to see; no fences, no creeks or trees, no hills or fields. If there was a road, I could not make it out in the faint starlight. There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.
Page 21 - In a moment we realized what it was. On some upland farm, a plough had been left standing in the field. The sun was sinking just behind it. Magnified across the distance by the horizontal light, it stood out against the sun, was exactly contained within the circle of the disc; the handles, the tongue, the share — black against the molten red.
Page 16 - Antonia had always been one to leave images in the mind that did not fade— that grew stronger with time. In my memory there was a succession of such pictures, fixed there like the old woodcuts of one's first primer: Antonia kicking her bare legs against the sides of my pony when we came home in triumph with our snake; Antonia in her black shawl and fur cap, as she stood by her father's grave in the snowstorm; Antonia coming in with her work-team along the evening sky-line.
Page 12 - Fortunate country, that is one day to receive hearts like Alexandra's into its bosom, to give them out again in the yellow wheat, in the rustling corn, in the shining eyes of youth!
Page 28 - We drove out from Red Cloud to my grandfather's homestead one day in April. I was sitting on the hay in the bottom of a Studebaker wagon, holding on to the side of the wagon box to steady myself — the roads were mostly faint trails over the bunch grass in those days. The land was open range and there was almost no fencing. As we drove further and further out into the country, I felt a good deal as if we had come to the end of everything — it was a kind of erasure of personality.

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About the author (2002)

SHERYL L. MEYERING is Professor of English at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville and associate editor of the literary journal Papers on Language and Literature. She is the editor of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Woman and Her Work (1989), Sylvia Plath: A Reference Guide (1990), and A Reader's Guide to the Short Stories of Willa Cather (1994). She has also written extensively on Nathaniel Hawthorne as well as on several 19th-century women writers.

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