Grave space: Mr. Shimerda’s suicide and the prairie in My Ántonia ; and, Is this still Shellmound?: the plantation’s troubled boundaries in Delta Wedding

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Whitney N. Scott (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Scott Romine

Abstract: Willa Cather's much beloved American classic, My Ántonia, is often celebrated for the triumphant story it tells about human resilience in the face of hardship. For every celebrated character, however, there are multiple others who succumb to the onerous environments in which the more central characters thrive. A closer examination of characters who meet violent or tragic ends, such as Mr. Shimerda, suggests that these minor characters, while serving as integral parts of other characters' triumphs, are more than foils used in establishing other characters' success. Instead, Mr. Shimerda and his grave come to illustrate the violent means through which dominant subjectivities are constructed. This essay begins with an analysis of how various subjects in My Ántonia are constituted in relation to other subjects as well as their geographical environments then continues on to examine how dominant subjectivities require violent events--like Mr. Shimerda's suicide--to come into being. The latter portion of this essay draws closely from Foucault’s concept of heterotopia to offer a close reading of Mr. Shimerda’s grave that demonstrates its situation within a complex set of relations and recommends an alternative reading of his suicide as potential critique rather than pathology. AND Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding presents the image of a plantation in flux. Character movement within and between established plantation spaces draws attention to destabilized boundaries in the plantation's material presence; this destabilization also exists in the plantation's social and familial registers. When plantation spaces are altered to compensate for the changed needs of the Fairchild family, boundaries must also change. These trends, while deviating from the plantation's ideal configuration, compel the Fairchilds to cling to that ideal as a means of coping with change. Ultimately, the Fairchild family must navigate a complex relationship between their idealized perception of the plantation and the plantation's spatial function that deviates from their ideal. This essay will examine the tensions present in Shellmound's spatial function as the Fairchild ideal is troubled by the problems of scarcity and abundance as they relate to the reproduction of bodies, material spaces, and familial identity as they comprise plantation at large.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Delta Wedding, Eudora Welty, My Antonia, Plantation, Suicide, Willa Cather
Cather, Willa, $d 1873-1947. $t My A´ntonia
Welty, Eudora, $d 1909-2001. $t Delta wedding
Plantations in literature
Suicide in literature

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