Cover image for Understanding O pioneers! and My Antonia : a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents
Understanding O pioneers! and My Antonia : a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents
Meyering, Sheryl L., 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv, 223 pages ; 24 cm.
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PS3505.A87 M8944 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 2

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-This installment in the series combines literary critique of Willa Cather's novels with historical documents that place them in cultural context. Reprints from historical and genealogical societies, periodicals, etc., address various topics relating to the American frontier, including details of daily life, impact of the railroad, trends in foreign immigration, women's issues, and the decline of the family farm in the years following westward expansion. Selections dealing with the latter topic in particular bring issues presented in the novels up to the present day, highlighting the enduring relevance of the works. Most of the excerpts are brief and accessible but also timely and interesting, making them ideal for assignments.-Alison Ching, North Garland High School, Garland, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Meyering's casebook should prove a valuable asset to undergraduate students of both history and literature. The book opens with a very brief analysis of Cather's two novels, and then, more important, it offers historical materials related to the fiction: documents of Cather's own prairie experiences, things that hampered the progress of early pioneers such the invasion of locusts, the struggle to establish new communities, and the contrast in roles and expectations of men and women who expended these efforts. The historical arrangement of the material leads to the conclusion that only after abandoning the family farms for the city did the inheritors of these rich legacies realize what they had forsaken, much as Jim Burden and Carl Linstrom did in the novels. Following each of the six chapters are suggestions for further oral and written exploration of the novels and their historic context and bibliographies citing the work of noteworthy Cather scholars. The casebook is designed to invite young scholars to mull Cather's themes of "the passage of time and the (healing) power of memory" and to pursue knowledge about the places, eras, and issues relevant to American culture. J. A. Dompkowski Canisius College

Table of Contents

W.G. EdmundsonJohn TurnerJohn TurnerAlbert WatkinsJohn TurnerGeorge W. SladeJ.E. GreenA.T. AndreasLloyd Lewis and Stanley PargellisJohn R. BuchananWilla CatherRose RosickyIvan DubovickySarka B. HrbkovaJoseph AlexisOle OlesonJohn ThompsonMable Cooper SkjelverD. Aidan McQuillanFred C. KochRebecca Culbertson HutchinsonJulia BaptistMartha Thomas OblingerMary Margaret Pike HarpsterA.T. AndreasAda BittenbenderJeffrey L. PasleyCharles HatcherGarland ThompsonDonnie DolesNeal TaltonLouis ForbesSteven Forbes
Introductionp. xiii
1. Fleeting Moments of Beauty: A Literary Analysis of O Pioneers! and My Antoniap. 1
2. Everyday Life on the Plainsp. 25
from "All about Homesteads" (1871)p. 29
from "Prairie Farming--Breaking the Sod" (1852)p. 32
from "Marble and Sod Houses" (1903)p. 34
from "The Big Blizzard of '73" (1903)p. 37
from History of Nebraska (1913)p. 43
from "Grasshopper Plague and Aid to Sufferers" (1903)p. 45
from "A Grasshopper Story" (1875)p. 47
from "Pioneering in Boone County" (1922)p. 50
from "Pioneering in Boone County" (1923)p. 52
3. The Coming of the Railroadp. 57
from "Railroads" (1882)p. 66
from Granger Country (1949)p. 70
from "The Great Railroad Migration into Northern Nebraska" (1902)p. 75
from "Letter from William Hagge" (1875)p. 77
from "Letter from R.W. Hazen" (1875)p. 78
from "Letter from James Jackson" (1875)p. 79
from "Railway Regulation: The Necessity of Enacting a Stringent State Law" (1884)p. 81
from A Lost Lady (1923)p. 84
4. Another Country, Another Language: Foreign-Born Pioneersp. 89
from A History of Czechs (Bohemians) in Nebraska (1929)p. 97
from "Czech-Americans: An Ethnic Dilemma" (1993)p. 100
from "Bohemians in Nebraska" (1919)p. 104
from "Swedes in Nebraska" (1919)p. 107
from Letters to His Brother in Sweden (1890)p. 110
from Letters to His Mother in Sweden (ca. 1890)p. 112
from Webster County: Visions of the Past (1980)p. 115
from "French-Canadian Communities in the Upper Midwest during the Nineteenth Century" (1983)p. 119
from The Volga Germans: In Russia and the Americas, from 1763 to the Present (1977)p. 121
5. Women on the Frontierp. 129
from Letters Home (1885-86)p. 141
from Letters Home (1885-88)p. 144
from Letters Home (1873-74)p. 148
from Personal Diary (1885-89)p. 155
from "The Ladies" (1885)p. 161
from "The Woman Suffrage Question" (1882)p. 161
from History of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Nebraska (1892)p. 165
6. The Disappearance of the Family Farmp. 171
from History of American Agriculture, 1776-1990: Farmers and the Land (2001)p. 183
from "The Idiocy of Rural Life" (1986)p. 192
from "The Future of Family Farming" (1985)p. 198
from "The Future of Family Farming" (1985)p. 199
from "The Future of Family Farming" (1985)p. 201
from "The Future of Family Farming" (1985)p. 202
from A Personal Interview (2000)p. 205
from A Personal Interview (2000)p. 208
Indexp. 215