Great Plains Book Club discussion

Cather Symposium, Red Cloud 2018

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 06:57AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Arrived in Red Cloud, attending opening sessions, preparing to report live on the Antonia centenary. Brilliant opening address by Evelyn Funda, Utah State University. Notes on same to follow.

message 2: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 06:57AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
A big kolache also to Charles Johanningsmeier, UNO, for his paper on the publication and readership of Antonia. The symposium is off to a great start!

message 3: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Great day of content at the Cather symposium. Notes to follow. Right now, going into the evening plenary featuring Roger & Antonia Welsch.

message 4: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Registered attendance > 200.

message 5: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 06:57AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Evelyn Funda, Utah State University
Plenary address, "Negotiating a Hyphenated Identity: Bohemian History Published in English, 1880-1930"

Cather, in her essay "Nebraska: The End of the First Cycle," is responding to rising nativism in the US. Czech writers in English are attempting to do the same, to "reframe the discourse," and Cather is aware of their work. Such as Karel Chapik and Rose Rosicky. They were saddled with hyphenated identities compounded by Bohunk stereotypes. Three lines of argument in defense.

1. Czechs were long contributors to America, back to colonial times.

2. Bohemian values were American values - see National Geographic issue, February 1917, Our Foreign-Born Citizens, including article, "Bohemia and the Czechs," by Ales Hrdlicha.

3, Bohemians are educated and philosophical people.

message 6: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 06:59AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Charles Johanningsmeier, UNO
Plenary address, "My Antonia's Readers, Then and Now"

Second plenary address of the opening session, taking up issues of readership, publication, marketing. Cather herself was "a force" with her readers, about whom she was ambivalent. She exercised considerable control of distribution, aiming for a quality audience, dignified and artistic presentation, not maximum sales. Readers then and now: 40 years +, white, midwestern, well-off. Book was "not, by any definition of the word, a best-seller." There were reasons, besides Cather's stubbornness: the war, and influenza, along with lack of promotion by publisher. Purchase price of $1.60 was high. First paperback was the Armed Services Edition during WW2. However, library use was solid, copies well-worn. Lots of reading in women's study clubs. Serious fan mail received and answered by Cather, especially prairie expatriates lauding her authenticity. It remains "an older person's book." Johanningsmeier thinks it should be promoted to new immigrants today.

message 7: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 06:59AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Yohei Yamamoto, Meiji University
"My Antonia and Manifest Destiny
Paper on Cather and American frontier and colonialist ethos

Cather, who invokes "destiny" (somewhat a la manifest destiny) for Antonia and Jim, inverts the frontier power relationship. Jim, after all, is a railroad lawyer; he represents the colonizing power; but it is the immigrants, people of diaspora, rather than empire, who prevail. [Are not these two twinned?]

message 8: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Nathaniel Lee Hansen, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
"Literary Pilgrimage, Both Journey and Destination"

The impact of pilgrimage on Hansen, a creative writer: learning "not to apologize" for being regional.

message 9: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 07:00AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Shana Latima, Georgia State University
Paper, "Investigating American Identity in Willa Cather's My Antonia"

Liminality of male-narrated modernist novels: protagonist seeks an unattainable female ideal. Cather twists this: the complex Jim-Antonia relationship, in the countryside not the city - a twisted sort of modernism, retaining an anti-modern traditionalism, resilient. The irony of Jim trying to "claim" Antonia, and the "insufficiency" of modernism.

message 10: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 07:00AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Barry Hudek, U of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Paper, "8 Ways Jim Burden Typifies Nice Guy Syndrome (You Won't Believe #4): My Antonia and Gender Comparisons"

A bit of a spoof, about Jim being consigned to the FriendZone. Jim as the nice guy who doesn't get the girl. Follows the gender code of his day, and has a sense of entitlement. Parallel to attitudes today, triggering white male resentment.

message 11: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Julie Olin-Ammentorp, LeMoyne College
Paper, "Reclaiming Jim Burden"

Jim Burden has become the "whipping boy" from MA, but he is "not the one to pick on." Jim is OK; the outside narrator shapes perception of him, not to his favor. He is loyal to his friends, and for all we may know, may have been happy after all in his work and marriage. "It is time to reclaim Jim Burden." [Is Jim a Mugwump?]

message 12: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Suzzanne Kelley: What about Jim and generativity? Middle-aged guy, composes a work of memory, and then goes in search of young people (Cuzak's boys) to whom he can transmit valued knowledge.

message 13: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 07:01AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Interesting thing about this meeting, where you have serious Cather scholars encountering the literate public: within the animated discussion, you have people posing obvious questions that scholars may have thought there were done with. For example,

1. Why can't we read this book as being about the prairie?

2. Why did Cather complicate things by inventing a narrator?

message 14: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 07:02AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Barbara Hustwit, emeritus College of Wooster
Paper, "Just Who Were These People? Red Cloud/Webster County Prototypes in Willa Cather's My Antonia"

One of those papers that drives the literary theorists crazy - enmeshed in micro-historical and biographical research. Cather's characters and their prototypes, 43 of them, with 7 treated in this paper. There is a handout, which I will post when I get home.

message 15: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 07:02AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Lurie Weber, UNL
Paper, "Dear Roscoe: What Willa Cather's 1919 Letter to Roscoe Cather Reveals about Willa and My Antonia"

The two of them are trashing W. A. White, specifically his In the Heart of Fool, for White's "worthless" portrayal of pioneer life, which presents "his own vulgar personality." White's work is a didactic, clumsy failure that flopped. Cather sees herself as representing high art.

message 16: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 07:03AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Max Frazier, Bennington Collection
Paper, "Epic Memories: Cather's Personal Past as "two or three human stories"

Cather exhibits an epic sense and lots of classical allusions, such as "20 years to come home to a woman." She labors "to create her own great work of literature in an unlikely setting." [Similar to Stegner in the Cypress Hills?] "We should read MA as epic literature. . . . Her characters are heroic figures in an epic tale." As with the plow: "There it was, heroic in size."

message 17: by Thomas (last edited Jun 01, 2018 07:03AM) (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
James A. Jaap, Penn State Greater Allegheny
Paper, "'The only daughter of a distinguished man': The McClungs and the Mellons in My Antonia"

Looking to Pittsburgh capitalist elite as the general hearth for Jim Burden character, and to a McClung family connection for identification of prototypes for Jim and for his wife. Alfred McClung, brother of Isable McClung, had a "controversial marriage" to the divorcee Mary Caldwell Mellon Campman in 1917. This also is related to the revision of the preface in 1926.

message 18: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Splendid evening plenary, featuring folklorist Roger Welsch and his daughter, Antonia Welsch. Roger delivered an engaging sort of memoir, with thoughts on folklore and literature and narrative. Followed by Antonia, on the perils of trying to live up to her name. Both were splendid set pieces; Antonia received a rousing standing ovation. Truly an outstanding program event.

message 19: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
We are back for the second day of program at the Cather symposium.

message 20: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Isern | 120 comments Mod
Nested along with this Instagram posts are other photos from Red Cloud and the Pavelka Farmstead -

back to top