ELIT 48C Kim Palmore 1
Essay 1: A Response to Literature of the Modernist period.
To Lean to Write a Clear and Cohesive Response to Literature
To Learn Rhetorical Strategies: Analysis, Synthesis, Argument, Cause and Effect, Compare and Contrast
To Learn Critical Thinking Skills
To Learn MLA Documentation Style: Integrating quotations; Works Cited
In this first half of our quarter, we have read and discussed multiple texts, theories, and opinions on both
literature and literary analysis, and for this reason, I offer you several choices for your first essay. In a
thesis driven essay of 500 to 750 words, respond to one of the following prompts. You need only the
primary text for this essay, but you may incorporate other stories, manifestos, or critical theory as
additional support. Remember, you can also draw on your own experiences and knowledge to discuss,
explain, and analyze your topic.
Topic: Choose One
Topic #1: Death as a Catalyst for Life
When Mr. Shimerda dies, Antonia is left, through no choice of her own, without a father. She
and her family are left poor and grieving in a strange new land. However, the rest of Antonia’s
life after his suicide becomes shaped by the choices that she makes. Explain how these choices
cause change at various points of her life.
Topic #2: Immigrants and the American Dream
Many immigrants arrived on the Nebraska prairie from all over Europe. Most of them were very
poor and they had little hope for survival. It can be said that the true meaning of their pioneer
spirit rose from their perseverance, their sheer will to survive the harshest conditions. They
braved the ordeals of prairie life for many years until they found comfort and established
themselves in a new land. Discuss the many hardships these immigrants faced and how
overcoming those hardships defined their pioneer spirit. Consider if and how The American
Dream played a role in their decision to make a new life in America.
Topic #3: Modern Women on the Plains
Most of the characters in My Antonia are women. Willa Cather has chosen to represent many of
these characters as successful and independent women, much like herself. Describe how the main
female characters in this novel achieve and maintain their independence.
Topic #4: The Cycles and Seasons of Life
Cather uses the seasons in this novel to symbolize life itself, using them to great effect in
painting scenes. Each of these scenes show how the endless cycle of spring-summer-fall-winter
reflects and symbolizes the character’s up-and-down struggles through life on the prairie.
Describe the use of each season in the novel and what it symbolizes, using examples to support
Topic #5: The Symbol of the Plow
Cather describes the plow "within the circle of the disk; the handles, the tongue, the share-black
ELIT 48C Kim Palmore 2
against the molten red. There it was, heroic in size, a picture writing on the sun. Even while we
whispered about it, our vision disappeared; the ball dropped and dropped until the red tip went
beneath the earth. . . . [and the plow sank] back into its own littleness somewhere on the prairie."
How does this visual image of the plow become an important symbol in the novel?
Topic #6: America’s Immigrants
My Antonia illustrates how immigrants, within one generation, can be as successful or more
successful than Americans whose ancestors have lived in this country for many generations and
who may have taken their blessings for granted. Choose one immigrant from the novel and show
how that character made choices that would be viewed as daring by the standards of any era.
Topic #7: The Good Ear
In a 1915 interview, Cather commented, "No one without a good ear can write good fiction." In
“The Novel Demeuble” Cather writes, “Whatever is felt upon the page without being specifically
named there—that, it seems to me, is created. It is the inexplicable presence of the thing not
named, of the over-tone divined by the ear but not heard by it, the verbal mood, the emotional
aura of the fact or the thing or the deed, that gives high quality to the novel or the drama, as well
as to poetry itself.” What particular passages in My Antonia show Cather's "good ear" for the
sound of language? Which show her ability to create “the thing not named”? Discuss how and
why these passages capture the moods and themes of the novel. How do they contribute to the
idea of the modernist novel?
Essay Topic #8: Feminism and Modernism
Discuss My Antonia through the lens of feminism and modernism. Consider traditional and
evolving gender roles. Look to the following questions to help direct your discussion of
feminism and modernism.
ELIT 48C Kim Palmore 3
Note: You are free to pursue another writing topic. Please, discuss it with me before you begin so we can
make sure that it is viable.
Submission Requirements: Please submit an electronic copy to firstname.lastname@example.org
Format Requirement: MLA-style formatting and citations
Length: Your finished text should be between 500-750 words, excluding the Works Cited page.
Research Requirements: none
Works Cited Page
A Works Cited page names all of the sources that were used in an essay or research paper; it credits the
source or sources for the information you present, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize to support your
thesis. A Works Cited page also serves as a reference to the sources that were used so that a reader or
writer can quickly refer to the original text. The Works Cited page for this research project will include
My Antonia. If you use other sources, including other primary or secondary sources from class, please list
Expected Student Learning Outcomes
§ Demonstrate outlining and brainstorming abilities
§ Demonstrate an awareness of the time needed to plan, search, and write an essay
§ Demonstrate increased awareness of strategies for organizing ideas and structuring essays
§ Demonstrate an ability to use complex sentence structures
§ Demonstrate an understanding of multiple rhetorical strategies
§ Demonstrate active reading strategies by finding textual evidence
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§ Learn to integrate quotations effectively and correctly
Previously Learned Skills Required to Complete this Assignment
ü The ability to summarize sources
ü The ability to use multiple rhetorical strategies: Narration, Description, Exemplification
ü An awareness of plagiarism issues
ü The ability to write grammatically correct, clear sentences.
ü The ability to write a clear and concise thesis.
ü The ability to brainstorm material for an essay.
ü The ability to organize an essay
Ø As you (re)read the text, keep in mind the prompts and highlight specific passages, lines, or
scenes that may support your argument.
Ø Write a thesis that helps readers understand both your argument and your reasoning.
Ø Include textual examples that illustrate your points.
Ø Avoid telling the reader that something is “interesting,” or “exciting”; instead create images or
use examples that show it.
Ø Come to my office if you are unsure, confused, or behind.
Traps to Avoid:
Ø Choosing a topic that you do not understand or one not on the list that you have not discussed
Ø Failing to assert a clear and strong argument.
Ø Seeking to present the subject from memory or hearsay.
Ø Failing to support the argument with evidence from appropriate sources.
Ø Citing Wikipedia (or other non-academic or unreliable sources) as a source for your paper.