5 Bank Street: The Listserv for Willa Cather Scholars


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"Wells, Elizabeth" <[log in to unmask]>
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5 Bank Street: The Listserv for Willa Cather Scholars
Sun, 21 Jul 2019 00:33:25 +0000
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In response to Susan Meyer’s question on how the Shimerdas got Marek past immigration officers:

Such an interesting question! I think the answer has something to do with the issue of passing and idiocy. The intellectually disabled were under enormous pressure to pass as normal in order to avoid institutionalization. Cather often shows Marek trying to pass as normal in order to gain acceptance; of course, he is ultimately unable to do so and is institutionalized. I would imagine that he would have gained entry to the country through similar efforts (or his parents’ suppressive efforts) at passing. It is fascinating that Cather aligns Marek’s failed passing with his father’s failed assimilation. As you point out, there is so much more to be explored within this intersection of idiocy and immigration, specifically in their double exclusion in the 1880s and 90s.

Here are a couple of sources that provide some enlightening historical background on the history of intellectual disability with respect to the pressures  for passing, including some consideration of the immigration exclusion acts:

- Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Intellectual Disability in the United States, James W. Trent
- Disability and Passing, Ed. Jeffrey Brune and Daniel Wilson

Liz Wells

Elizabeth Wells, PhD
Instructor, Writing and Rhetoric
Fisher Center Fellow, 2018-19
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>

On Jul 20, 2019, at 1:30 PM, Susan L Meyer <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:

It is interesting to be reminded of this: "Otherwise, the American dream was available to anyone who could pay a 50-cent tax (about $12 in current dollars) and was not a “convict, lunatic, idiot or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.”

It makes me wonder how the Shimerdas got their son Marek past the immigration officers.  Was he based on a real person?  Has anyone investigated this issue?  May I call "dibs" if nobody has yet?!

Susan Lynn Meyer
Department of English, Wellesley College, Wellesley MA 02481

Recent books:
Matzah Belowstairs (Lerner, Kar-Ben Books 2019).
Skating with the Statue of Liberty (Penguin Random House 2016).
New Shoes (Holiday House 2015).

Recent awards:
New York State Charlotte Award.
Jane Addams Peace Award.
NAACP Image Award Nominee.

On Sat, Jul 20, 2019 at 12:36 PM Maria Cristina Giorcelli <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
Thank you! Cristina

Prof. Cristina Giorcelli

Full Professor Emerita of American Literature

University of Rome Three

Da: 5 Bank Street: The Listserv for Willa Cather Scholars <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> per conto di Diane Prenatt <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
Inviato: sabato 20 luglio 2019 02:16:59
A: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]> <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
Oggetto: [5BANKSTREET] Cather for our time . . . again

Thought others would be interested:

https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.nytimes.com_2019_07_19_opinion_trump-2Dpresidency-2Dimmigration.html-3Faction-3Dclick-26module-3DOpinion-26pgtype-3DHomepage&d=DwIGaQ&c=Cu5g146wZdoqVuKpTNsYHeFX_rg6kWhlkLF8Eft-wwo&r=1P1U_QmwwektPDtD1M1foXXGqUzLgygf16Nt7kNKpE0&m=bAA-d49RwOl2KlYCT0n6MfxbBZTpUF6INuv7WIoH2LU&s=_ozuiWR1LH2c7GRUX33RlWzVSPVQJcPnR71S1WoHzdU&e= <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.nytimes.com_2019_07_19_opinion_trump-2Dpresidency-2Dimmigration.html-3Faction-3Dclick-26module-3DOpinion-26pgtype-3DHomepage&d=DwMF-g&c=Cu5g146wZdoqVuKpTNsYHeFX_rg6kWhlkLF8Eft-wwo&r=1P1U_QmwwektPDtD1M1foXXGqUzLgygf16Nt7kNKpE0&m=sfETQMpKtFuLn85oskFpdBx6pxHEVmuiOq3tq3pJN-g&s=h86Cp-KKQZzVja_MxfqNj5B3M2FSWgjqv7U5_FcrZvY&e=>

[https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__static01.nyt.com_images_2019_07_29_opinion_29stephensWeb_29stephensWeb-2DfacebookJumbo.jpg&d=DwIGaQ&c=Cu5g146wZdoqVuKpTNsYHeFX_rg6kWhlkLF8Eft-wwo&r=1P1U_QmwwektPDtD1M1foXXGqUzLgygf16Nt7kNKpE0&m=bAA-d49RwOl2KlYCT0n6MfxbBZTpUF6INuv7WIoH2LU&s=MbigZez-sRGUM9OSoQEHfyigdcMFhNGF1qWlwYFpK_M&e= ]<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.nytimes.com_2019_07_19_opinion_trump-2Dpresidency-2Dimmigration.html-3Faction-3Dclick-26module-3DOpinion-26pgtype-3DHomepage&d=DwMF-g&c=Cu5g146wZdoqVuKpTNsYHeFX_rg6kWhlkLF8Eft-wwo&r=1P1U_QmwwektPDtD1M1foXXGqUzLgygf16Nt7kNKpE0&m=sfETQMpKtFuLn85oskFpdBx6pxHEVmuiOq3tq3pJN-g&s=h86Cp-KKQZzVja_MxfqNj5B3M2FSWgjqv7U5_FcrZvY&e=>

Opinion | The Perfect Antidote to Trump - The New York Times<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.nytimes.com_2019_07_19_opinion_trump-2Dpresidency-2Dimmigration.html-3Faction-3Dclick-26module-3DOpinion-26pgtype-3DHomepage&d=DwMF-g&c=Cu5g146wZdoqVuKpTNsYHeFX_rg6kWhlkLF8Eft-wwo&r=1P1U_QmwwektPDtD1M1foXXGqUzLgygf16Nt7kNKpE0&m=sfETQMpKtFuLn85oskFpdBx6pxHEVmuiOq3tq3pJN-g&s=h86Cp-KKQZzVja_MxfqNj5B3M2FSWgjqv7U5_FcrZvY&e=>
When I was in high school I read Willa Cather’s “My Ántonia” and loved it for the love story it told. This week, I borrowed my daughter’s copy and read it again. It turns out to be a book ...

Diane Prenatt, Ph.D.
Professor of English Emerita
Marian University
Indianapolis IN  46222