Understanding O Pioneers! And My Ntonia

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Willa Cather's novels Oh Pioneers! and My √Āntonia 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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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-In addition to critique, students will find period and modern selections on topics related to the American frontier. This accessible volume will help readers place Willa Cather's work in the context of her time and appreciate her continuing relevance. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Though the two novels by American writer Willa Cather (1873-1947) deal with universal themes of human hopes and disappointments, says Meyering (English, Southern Illinois U.-Edwardsville), readers can appreciate them more by understanding the specific time and place they are set in: the US prairie the generation after European settlement. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313313905
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/30/2002
  • Series: The Greenwood Press "Literature in Context" Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 226
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

1 Fleeting Moments of Beauty: A Literary Analysis of O Pioneers! and My Antonia 1
2 Everyday Life on the Plains 25
"All about Homesteads" (1871) 29
W. G. Edmundson, "Prairie Farming - Breaking the Sod" (1852) 32
John Turner, "Marble and Sod Houses" (1903) 34
John Turner, "The Big Blizzard of '73" (1903) 37
Albert Watkins, History of Nebraska (1913) 43
John Turner, "Grasshopper Plague and Aid to Sufferers" (1903) 45
"A Grasshopper Story" (1875) 47
George W. Slade, "Pioneering in Boone County" (1922) 50
J. E. Green, "Pioneering in Boone County" (1923) 52
3 The Coming of the Railroad 57
A. T. Andreas, "Railroads" (1882) 66
Lloyd Lewis and Stanley Pargellis, Granger Country (1949) 70
John R. Buchanan, "The Great Railroad Migration into Northern Nebraska" (1902) 75
"Letter from William Hagge" (1875) 77
"Letter from R. W. Hazen" (1875) 78
"Letter from James Jackson" (1875) 79
"Railway Regulation: The Necessity of Enacting a Stringent State Law" (1884) 81
Willa Cather, A Lost Lady (1923) 84
4 Another Country, Another Language: Foreign-Born Pioneers 89
Rose Rosicky, A History of Czechs (Bohemians) in Nebraska (1929) 97
Ivan Dubovicky, "Czech-Americans: An Ethnic Dilemma" (1993) 100
Sarka B. Hrbkova, "Bohemians in Nebraska" (1919) 104
Joseph Alexis, "Swedes in Nebraska" (1919) 107
Ole Oleson, Letters to His Brother in Sweden (1890) 110
John Thompson, Letters to His Mother in Sweden (ca. 1890) 112
Mabel Cooper Skjelver, Webster County: Visions of the Past (1980) 115
D. Aidan McQuillan, "French-Canadian Communities in the Upper Midwest during the Nineteenth Century" (1983) 119
Fred C. Koch, The Volga Germans: In Russia and the Americas, from 1763 to the Present (1977) 121
5 Women on the Frontier 129
Rebecca Culbertson Hutchinson, Letters Home (1885-86) 141
Julia Baptist, Letters Home (1885-88) 144
Martha Thomas Oblinger. Letters Home (1873-74) 148
Mary Margaret Pike Harpster. Personal Diary (1885-89) 155
"The Ladies" (1885) 161
A. T. Andreas, "The Woman Suffrage Question" (1882) 161
Ada Bittenbender, History of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Nebraska (1892) 165
6 The Disappearance of the Family Farm 171
U.S. Department of Agriculture, History of American Agriculture, 1776-1990: Farmers and the Land (2001) 183
Jeffrey L. Pasley, "The Idiocy of Rural Life" (1986) 192
Charles Hatcher, "The Future of Family Farming" (1985) 198
Garland Thompson, "The Future of Family Farming" (1985) 199
Donnie Doles, "The Future of Family Farming" (1985) 201
Neal Talton, "The Future of Family Farming" (1985) 202
Louis Forbes: A Personal Interview (2000) 205
Steven Forbes: A Personal Interview (2000) 208
Index 215
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