Dear Janis,I’m in total agreement. Many years ago (I’m 85 and have been retired for some time) a student was writing a dissertation on racism in Willa Cather. I tried to be fair and neutral, but I was deeply upset. Of course it’s there, but that’s true of so many of the fine writers of the period. The best I could do was to say that there’s so much richness in Cather that I would have preferred he had chosen a different topic.I fretted about this situation for years, worried about what it says about me. But can we go back and apply the standards of today, with all we have learned in the past decades, to the great writers of the past? I don’t have the answer.Kindest regards,Marilyn Berg CallanderSent from my iPad
On Jul 20, 2019, at 9:16 PM, Janis stout <[log in to unmask]> wrote:I think it is both appropriate and important for us to recognize in the works and the lives of long-dead writers what is there and what isn't, and to read those things in the light of both what we have learned in the interim and what we may have lost. That is, I think it is our responsibility both to judge them--i.e., evaluate them--and to let them teach us.Oh what a dismissive phrase that "politically correct" is! Surely we all, whatever our politics, hold those political views because we think they are the most nearly correct ones, so far as we are able to discern.Janis StoutProfessor Emerita of English,Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost Emerita,Texas A&M University
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On Jul 20, 2019, at 5:37 PM, Robert Garnett <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I wonder if it’s a good idea to subject long-dead writers of a different era to the politically correct standards of today. “Judge not, that ye be not judged” perhaps applies.
Professor Emeritus of English
I agree that Bret Stephens is to be avoided whenever possible, but who among us can ignore a paean to Cather, even a badly written and poorly reasoned one? Yes, she still had much to learn about her country's history, circa 1918, but she got there, covering the Navajo expulsion as "an injustice that cried to Heaven (Archbishop) and finally returning to the lessons of her youth, with one of her role models a grandmother who aided and abetted a runaway slave on "the road to freedom" (Sapphira).
Cather's depiction of Czech immigrants in My Antonia gave hope to their President Masaryk, who wrote to Cather his appreciation, beginning a correspondence that would serve as one of their few comforts as the Nazi threat loomed over Europe and the world.
She did often have her finger on the pulse, especially for those of us who believe the heartbeat of this country is in the fate of the immigrant, the people of the pueblo, the freed slave, and yes, the girls and women we can and must save from bondage and rape.
Keeping the faith,
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On Jul 20, 2019, at 12:48 PM, Thomas Gallagher <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
One of the things I’ve learned as a Times subscriber is to never, ever read Bret Stephens, no matter what he’s writing about.
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Perfect antidote is stretching it since Cather’s immigrants were largely white. No mention in My Antonia of Native American displacement. Jim’s Nebraska seems immune from the Civil War and the tumult of Reconstruction.
I love My Antonia for many reasons. Nostalgia for American greatness is not one of them.
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On Jul 20, 2019, at 7:39 AM, Diane Prenatt <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Thought others would be interested:
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
Indianapolis IN 46222