Interpreting Literature: Session IV My Antonia 2015-03-26

Analyzing Books Three – Five

We finished up our discussion of our novel, My Ántonia, with a thorough review of the events and details of Books Three – Five. Make sure you are familiar with the novel before our final quiz by reviewing your active reading charts and short answer questions.

Final Quiz

For the final quiz, you will need to recall story content, study the Key Facts handout, and all vocabulary from the Glencoe Guide. You also need to know the meaning of elegiac and nostalgic.

Related Readings: Virgil and The House on Mango Street

“Optima dies…prima fugit.” The best days…are the first to flee.

The above quote comes from the Georgics, an instructive poem written about farming by the epic Roman poet Virgil and translates to “The best days…are the first to flee.” Jim studies Virgil when he’s away at college and specifically mentions this line at the end of Book 3, Chapter 2. It also happens to be the epigraph. There are two major connections to My Ántonia in this epigraph. The first is the actual line – the best days are the first to flee. My Ántonia is a romanticized look back at the past, and the fleeting nature of youth is a major theme in the novel. Jim in particular is enamored of long-gone better days. The second connection has to do with the source of this quote, the Georgics. In this lengthy poem, Virgil discusses the virtues of the farming life while teaching his readers the best way to live off the land. The relationship between man and the natural world is another central theme in the novel. Part of the romantic veneer of Jim’s memoir has to do with his admiration for the vast, beautiful open spaces of the Nebraska landscape. There is also a connection here to Cather’s own life, because she studied Latin and Greek herself both in high school and in college. We can see Cather’s own love for these ancient languages reflected in Jim’s passion, and of course in this choice of epigraph.

Virgil was the master of metaphorical language and is known for his epic use of simile. To drive home this concept we did a couple of fun exercises where we “Built a Better Metaphor” and a “Fill in the Blank” simile exercise. Both were good for several laughs!

To wrap things up, we read five selections from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. From “Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.” If you can grab a copy at the library, I think it’s well worth taking an hour or two to read through some of these short sketches.

Final Project – Family Tree Essay

Thursday is our last class on this novel. No class on April 9. We pick things up again on April 16 with our final, and possibly finest selection to date: To Kill a Mockingbird.Fill out the family tree page I gave you in class to the best of your knowledge; ask your parents for help. Choose one family member and find out where they are originally from–preferably a foreign country, but if not, the state or town is fine. If they are still alive, interview them about their earliest memories and create a one page essay or fictional story inspired by their memories. If you do not have access to an older family member, choose one of the countries or areas of origin and research what life was like in that place 50-100 years ago. Write a short essay or fictional story based on your findings.