The PEP Reading Group will discuss Willa Cather’s My Ántonia as part of its Fall 2018 series. This semester’s series explores literature of the West, beginning with a novel about homesteaders in Wyoming in the late nineteenth century and ending with essays published in the late 1960s that incited environmentalists to help save the Southwest from destruction from industrial harm.
My Ántonia evokes the Nebraska prairie life of Willa Cather’s childhood, and commemorates the spirit and courage of immigrant pioneers in America. One of Cather’s earliest novels, written in 1918, it is the story of Ántonia Shimerda, who arrives on the Nebraska frontier as part of a family of Bohemian emigrants. Her story is told through the eyes of Jim Burden, a neighbor who will befriend Ántonia, teach her English, and follow the remarkable story of her life.
Working in the fields of waving grass and tall corn that dot the Great Plains, Ántonia forges the durable spirit that will carry her through the challenges she faces when she moves to the city. But only when she returns to the prairie does she recover her strength and regain a sense of purpose in life. In the quiet, probing depth of Willa Cather’s art, Ántonia’s story becomes a mobbing elegy to those whose persistence and strength helped build the American frontier.
Convened by Dr. Margaret Garb and Dr. Barbara Baumgartner, the Prison Education Project Reading Group (est. 2014) convenes each semester in the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center to consider a series of texts. Designed to sharpen participants’ reading and critical thinking skills, increase expose to significant and interesting texts, and to promote an intellectual environment within MECC, the Reading Group also builds up the skills needed for participants to become successful applicants to the Prison Education Project.
Image: Haystack, Thomas Hart Benton, 1938, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston