• To lay is to place something or put something down, and it
must be followed by a noun or pronoun, a thing; to lie is to
recline. A lie is an untruth, and to lie also means "to tell an
untruth." Examples: Lay that package on the mantel, will you
please? Bridgette would like to lie in the hammock near the
pool. Sometimes it's tempting to lie when you're in
trouble, but a lie only makes things worse. (Hint: Lay sounds
like place; lie sounds like recline. But be careful: lay is also the
past tense of the verb to lie: Jay lay on the couch all day
• Historical Context
•Discussion: My Antonia Book II 1-8
Review: Historical Context
Increasing Immigrant Population
Resistance to Immigrants: cheap labor
The Homestead Act: 160 acres
Opposing Theories: The “melting pot”
versus the “salad bowl”
Frederick Jackson Turner and the
image of the American West
My Ántonia Style: Realism
Jim Burden gives voice to a romanticism, or at least an
overly sentimental or positive outlook that seems close to
romanticism. The homesteading
German, Danish, Bohemian, and Scandinavian settlers were
the embodiment of a cultural tradition Cather cherished.
However, the novel is saved from sentimentality by the
evocative depiction of the harsh realities of pioneer and
immigrant life and the complexity of the characters, who
are rarely, if ever, only sympathetic or only despicable.
British modernist E.M. Forster coined the phrase “round”
to describe these complex characters.
Style: Imagery and Symbols
Cather's sparse but allusive style
relies on the quality and depth of
her images. She consciously uses the
land, its colors, seasons, and
changes to suggest emotions and
Summer stands for life (Ántonia can’t
imagine who would want to die during
Winter stands for death (Mr. Shimerda
commits suicide during the winter).
Animals are used as symbols of the struggle for
survival experienced by the Shimerdas during their first
The essential grotesque image of the cost of this
struggle is that of Mr. Shimerda’s corpse frozen in his
His coat and neck cloth and boots are removed and
carefully laid by for the survivors.
Other Images or symbols?
Imagery and Symbols
In your groups:
the QHQs for
1. What are the contrasts that are being
developed between the characters in
2. What is the importance of
independent women in this
section, and why has Cather chosen to
develop these characters here?
Discuss My Ántonia in terms of one or more of
the modernist manifestos.
• F.T Marinetti: “Manifesto of
• Mina Loy: “Feminist
• Ezra Pound: “A Retrospect”
• Willa Cather: The Novel
• William Carlos Williams:
“Spring and All”
• Langston Hughes: “The Negro
Artist and the Racial
“The man who lives a life in which his activities conform to a
social code which is protectorate of the feminine– is no longer
Mina Loy explains in Feminist manifesto that if a man lives his
life conforming to a patriarchy than that man is not to be
considered masculine. She also proclaims that [women] who
“adapt themselves to a theoretical valuation of their sex as a
relative personality, are not yet feminine.” It’s tough for me to
tell what she’s saying right off the bat, but I sense that she’s
getting at women who prescribe themselves the roles that
are consistent with a patriarchal society, then she is not truly
feminine because it means she is devaluing herself.
If I’m correct, My Antonia would of been a shining example
Mina Loy would have loved.
• Willa Cather does follow Hughes’s advice [about voice] in
writing a story that embraces what she goes through as a
lesbian woman, and the way she plays with the narrators is an
intentional representation of how voiceless and powerless
women and queer people were.
• Q: When describing D’Arnault’s playing Jim says that “he could
never learn like other people, never acquire finish. He was
always a negro prodigy who played barbarously and
wonderfully,” My QHQ would be: who should determine when
something is done the right way? (Reference Hughes, Feminist
and Queer Theories)
Cather and other Modern
• Q: Does Cather follow her own advice on My Antonia that she
puts forth in her manifesto The Novel Demeuble?
• Q: [I]n the case of My Antonia, how would Spring and All fit
with what we have read, and why is it important to mention
this manifesto as a possible influence on our reading?
• A principle of futurism was that “courage, audacity, and revolt
will be the essential elements of our poetry.” In the case of
relation to Antonia, these forms of “courage, audacity, and
revolt” [don’t] necessarily manifest in any bloody war type of
situation, but more in the conscious disregard of female
QHQ: What do you say?
1. Q: What is the significance of the many single, as well as
unhappily married, characters in this novel?
2. Q: Why is Ambrosch so obsessively controlling as far as Antonia is
3. Q: What is the significance of Cather painting the female
characters to encompass more masculine characteristics than the
male characters themselves?
4. Q: Why did Antonia and the other youngsters go from being
content at home to restless youths looking for thrills?
5. Q: Why is Blind d’Arnault’s piano-playing depicted as technically
inept, but musically wonderful?
Read My Ántonia (1918) Book II Chapters 9-15 and Book III Chapters
Post #14: Answer one of the following prompts:
1. Discuss the differences Jim sees between the country girls and the
2. Explain the importance of the dance pavilion to both Jim and
3. Explain why Willa Cather has chosen to devote one of the books of
her novel to Lena Lingard.
4. Discuss the importance of the narrator leaving Black Hawk for
5. Write your own QHQ
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