English Education Methods 332
Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.
Teaching the Novel: My
I firmly believe that it is true that the person doing most
of the work is the person doing most of the learning. Hence…
We will be reading and discussing My Antonia in the English 221 class in a few weeks. Your assignment is to prepare a unit plan on this book as if you were going to teach it
to a college preparation class. (This
book is often taught at the junior or senior level and so you may have an
occasion to use your material.) In this
unit plan you may want to consider any of the following:
Biographical information on Willa Cather
Literary criticisms on My Antonia
Lectures on regional or local color writing
Other works by Cather (short stories)
Writing assignments (essay questions or creative
Group activities (role playing, group discussions)
Exam (or quizzes)
Let's assume that you will take two weeks on My Antonia (five school days). Prepare daily
lesson plans and include in those lesson plans what you plan to do each
day, your objectives, assessment measures, and a time table for the activities
Check out the textbooks on reserve in the library for Education
332. There are several chapters that
deal with teaching the novel. They may
be helpful to you.
Will I ask you to "teach" My Antonia to the
English 221 students? I'll leave that
up to you.
Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.
My Antonia – Discussion Questions
would you respond to critics who claim that My Antonia has several
structural flaws including: (a)
many episodes seem to have little apparent function in the novel; (b)
while the book is supposed to be about Antonia, most of it is actually
about Jim; (c) although Jim claims that he would have liked to have
married Antonia, there is little in the book to support this; (d) there is
an emotional emptiness in Jim and Antonia’s relationship; (e) Jim is an
unreliable narrator who exposes and criticizes the tradition he supposedly
represents; and (f) the novel is a pastoral romance.
- How is
Willa Cather a “Western” writer?
how My Antonia is a book about “class distinctions,” an underlying
conflict between the old, established American stock, and the new
immigrants from Eastern Europe.
How does Cather treat the only Black in the book?
- Do a
bit of research of Willa Cather’s life and her sources for My Antonia. Can you explain why some critics claim
that Jim Burden is Cather’s alter ego?
narrative in My Antonia begins with Antonia and Jim’s journey to
Nebraska. Discuss how the book now
may be read as a tale of separation and loss to union and possession for
both of the main characters.
- How do
you feel about Antonia and Jim when the novel ends? Did you like these characters? Which character seems “complete” to
you? Use textual evidence to
support your conclusions.
doesn’t Jim marry Antonia?
how the following add levels of meaning to My Antonia:
and Peter’s story
killing of the snake
Kolodny in The Lay of the Land discusses how men have gendered the
land as feminine for many years, and that this need to experience the land
as a nurturing maternal figure comes from the men’s perception of the
frontier as a threatening, alien, and potentially emasculating terrifying
unknown. Implicit in the metaphor
of the land-as-woman is both the regressive pull of maternal containment
and the seductive invitation to sexual assertion. Does Kolodyn’s thesis hold true in My
Antonia? You may also want to
refer to Nina Baym’s “Melodramas of Beset Manhood” as you respond.
your reading of My Antonia complicated in any way by knowing that
Willa Cather (a lesbian) writes the story in a male persona’s voice?