Kingwood College Library
Assignment Guide for
Willa Cather's My Antonia
Born - Back Creek Valley, Virginia on December 7, 1873.
Died - New York, New York on April 24, 1947.
Willa Cather is known for her literary portraits of frontier life. She was raised in the Nebraska farming community of Red Cloud where her extended family included grandparents, and an aunt and uncle. This area provided settings for most of her best-known works. My Antonia, written in 1918 and recognized as one of her major works, describes an immigrant girl's life on the Nebraska plains and draws inspiration from her own youth. Her characters reflect the strong personalities and enduring qualities of the people she encountered on the American frontier. Cather's talent as a writer is well illustrated in her ability to translate these characteristics into universal terms. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923.
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Main Characters - Jim Burden, narrator and Antonia's friend
Antonia Shirmerda, a Bohemian peasant girl
Plot - Told as a narrative, this is the story of Jim Burden's recollections of Antonia, and her
life on the Nebraska prairie. Jim and Antonia lived on adjoining farms and were friends growing
up. Although her life is filled with hard work and difficulties, Antonia's strong spirit never breaks.
Setting - Nebraska prairie during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Red Cloud, Nebraska, is the
town where Jim and Antonia later move.
Theme - The setting and characters are most important in the novel. It can be called a regional
chronicle, or pastoral. The theme is the struggle of the early farming immigrants and their
perseverance and strong spirits.
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Background - Use the Kingwood College Library catalog to search for information on immigrants during this period of settling the American west. Check for books about Willa Cather and My Antonia on reserve at the Circulation Desk. They are available for use in the library.
- The Immigrant in American History - JV6451 .H33 - A particularly good source for descriptions of German immigrant farmers and the problems they faced.
Author - Use Willa Cather's name as a subject search to find books about her life and her literary career.
- Geography and Literature - PN56 .L55 G46 - Located at Tomball College library, this book connects a setting to the literature which decribes it.
The novel - Search for books about My Antonia by using the title as a subject search in the catalog. Some reference books which will help you analyze the story are listed here.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography (DLB) - PN 41 .D5, v. 9, 54, 78 - V. 9, American Novelists, 1910-1945, contains analysis of Cather's work as a novelist.
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- Twentieth Century Literary Criticism (TCLC) - PN 771 .G27, v. 1, 11, 31, 99 - Discussion of Willa Cather's work. Volume 31 contains a concentration of analysis on My Antonia.
- Identities and Issues in Literature - PS 153 .M56 I34 - These books discuss particular themes in literature. My Antonia is mentioned in "the American identity," "the west and the frontier," "fertility and identity," and "internal immigration."
- Magill's Survey of American Literature - PS21.M34, v.1 - This book contains a brief biography of Willa Cather and a short analysis of My Antonia. It can be helpful for developing a research topic.
Most scholarly research will be found by using databases to locate articles in scholarly literary journals. The following links will take you to databases containing information about My Antonia and Willa Cather's literary career.
- Academic Search Premier - Scholarly, multi-discipline database, with many full text articles. Choose the Advanced Search feature and select Full Text and Scholarly (Peer reviewed) to get good results.
- Literature Resource Center - Full text articles from reference books and Twayne's Masterworks books. Journal articles, some full text and some excerpted. Search for information by author, title or use custom search to combine the two.
- MLA - One of the oldest and most authoritative sources for citations to literary criticism, this index from the Modern Language Association will help you locate articles from scholarly literary journals. Use the Advanced search screen and limit searches to journal articles in English. This database must be used with microfiche located in the library.
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- PA Research II/ProQuest- Over 1900 journals in all subjects, mostly full text. Search for peer reviewed articles, and use the backfile as well as the current file.
Although most of your resources will be found in books and database, the Internet can be a useful source for research about Willa Cather and My Antonia. Evaluate Internet sites for quality, scholarly level, author and validity before using them as resources for your paper.
- Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation - From Willa Cather's childhood home, Red Cloud, Nebraska, is this site tells all about past and present Catherland.
- Addison Public Library - My Antonia page - the public library examines My Antonia.
- My Antonia - The full text of the novel.
MLA citation style guide for your works cited page. Helpful examples of citations from many types of resources.
The Learning Center, formerly Academic Support Center. Check the hours of the Learning Center for help with your paper or in-house tutoring. Remember, your instructor is the final authority on the content and form of your paper.
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Page created by Rebecca Bradley, Kingwood College Library, 7/16/01. Updated 11/6/02.