SPELLING ERROR #5: CONFUSING “RACKED” WITH “WRACKED.” If you are racked with nerves, you are feeling as if you are being stretched on the torture device, the rack. You rack your brain when you try to write difficult stories.Wrack, on the other hand, has to do with ruinous accidents. With luck, this won’t apply to your writing, but it might just apply to the stock market, which has been wracked by recession.
AGENDALecture: My Antonia Historical ContextDiscussion Questions QHQs Chapters 1-19
HISTORICAL CONTEXT: IMMIGRATIONUp until 1825, fewer than 10,000 new immigrants came to the UnitedStates each year. By the late 1840s, revolutions in Europe and thedevastating potato famine in Ireland sent people to this country by thehundreds of thousands. By 1860, one-eighth of Americas 32million people were foreign born.While many of these immigrants settled in the east, the promotional activities ofthe railroads brought many immigrants straight past them to theprairies. The railroad companies even sent scouts abroad to encouragepeople to come and settle the plains and prairies.Another flood of immigrants came in the 1860s and 1870s, just after theHomestead Act of 1862. This legislation granted, for a small fee, 160acres of Western public land to citizens or prospectivecitizens who would stay and settle it for five years. Thesesettlers were predominantly from western and northern Europe.
By the time Cather was writing My Ántonia, immigration to the GreatPlains had slowed. Urban immigration, however, continued to causemiserable situations in the cities.As a journalist in Pittsburgh and New York City and as anewspaperwoman and editor for a radical magazine, Cather wasexposed to the conditions in which many urban immigrants lived.She also saw the mounting fear that the arrival of cheap foreignlabor was not only undesirable competition but a contribution tothe widening and hardening gap between rich and poor.During World War I, German-Americans were definitelysuspect and stories of their victimization can be found in almost anyMidwestern state histories. Even the Czechs, who were eager to helpfree their homeland from the domination of Austria-Hungary, sufferedduring the war years. The countrys anxiety over the role immigrantswere to play in our society did not ease, even though the "tide" ofimmigration was stemmed briefly by World War I.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT: THEORIES OF AMERICANIZATIONReaction to the massive European immigration of the nineteenth century hadfostered opposing theories of Americanization: These models have come to becalled the "melting pot" theory and the "salad bowl" theory andstill define the debate on difference even today, almost a century later.In the 1890s, Frederick Jackson Turner popularized the image ofthe American West as a crucible (a vat or vessel) where Europeanimmigrants would be "Americanized, liberated, and fused into a mixed race."My Ántonia can be read as a tribute to this view and Ántoniaherself can be appreciated as "the rich mine of life, like the founders of earlyraces" that produces the American people from the raw material that has beengathered on its shores.Carl Degler coined the expression "salad bowl."
Spend 5-6 minutes inyour groups, discussingyour answers toprompts or your QHQs
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS Discuss why Willa Cather chose a male narrator and why women dominate the novel. Explore the story or relationship of Pavel and Peter. Compare and contrast the lives of Jim Burden and Antonia. Explain what drew them together and enabled them to become close friends. Compare and contrast the relationship between Antonia and Jim in Section 1 (Chapters 1-10) and Section 2 (Chapters 11-19)
QHQ: CHAPTERS 1-19 WHAT DO YOU SAY?1. Why did Mr. Shimerda stop playing the violin, even though he brought it with him?2. Do other immigrants express homesickness? Have all the other immigrants been reborn in America, or do they have dual Old World/New World identities (such as Pavel and Peter)?3. Is Ántonia really such a challenge to the of-the-day concept femininity (like some comments above seemed to suggest)?4. What effect did this novel have on other novels written by women, and the influence it had on their own style of writing?5. What effect did this novel have on women during this
HOMEWORK Read My Antonia (1918) Book II Chapters 1-8 Post #6: Answer one of the following prompts 1. Discuss the contrasts that are being developed between the characters in this section. 2. Discuss the importance of independent women in this section, and why Willa Cather has chosen to develop these characters here. 3. Discuss My Antonia in terms of one or more of the Manifestos 4. Write your own QHQ.
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