These activities provide more in-depth opportunities for student projects.
- "Every artist must make himself born."
Create a map or timeline that depicts the most important places or events in Thea's journey toward artistic freedom. Choose quotes from the film or novel to illustrate your map or timeline. How does Thea struggle to "make [herself] born," as Harsanyi tells her she must do?
- Another point of view
Both novel and film follow Thea's development from an omniscient point of view, yet it is quite clear that many of the supporting characters have a very strong opinion of Thea. Choose one character from the novel or film and write a monologue about Thea in that person's voice and from that person's point of view. Does this character truly understand Thea, or is his or her view limited in some way? Afterwards, students might act out their monologues and have the class guess which character is speaking.
- "I know her."
Study the Jules Breton painting The Song of the Lark. This is the painting in the Chicago Art Institute that Thea feels is "her picture"; in the film she murmurs, "I know her" as she looks at the young peasant woman. Why do you think Thea feels this way? Do you think it is a good title for Cather's novel and this film? Why or why not? What work of art, in any medium, inspires in you that same sense of "knowing" it, or resonates with you on some deeper level? Why?
- Write your own version
Write an outline for a novel or film that tells the story of another artist's development from childhood to success. Choose an artist from any medium (music, writing, the visual arts, dance, film, etc.), fictional or real. Would you, like Cather, concentrate on the "struggle" and not the "success" in this story? Why or why not? What does your artist have in common with Thea Kronborg?
- A sense of place
Read some of Cather's lush descriptions of the western landscape in The Song of the Lark. Then choose some aspect of the landscape where you grew up to write about, using Cather as a model. Students might then exchange writing with someone else in the class and either draw the scene or describe film shots that they would choose to illustrate their partner's words.
- Connections to other literature
Sharon O'Brien writes about The Song of the Lark, "In some ways Cather was clearly telling a woman's story in her novel. . . . But Cather was also telling an American story, the story of self-creation and rebirth into an imaginative and creative life." Find other novels or memoirs that tell a "woman's story," an "American story," and/or the story of an artist's self-creation. Show their connections to Thea's story by writing a dialogue between Thea and a main character from another work in which they discuss one of these connections. (Parallels can easily be drawn between The Song of the Lark and many other often-taught works, such as: A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man; The Awakening; A Room of One's Own; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Their Eyes Were Watching God; The Great Gatsby; The Scarlet Letter; The Grapes of Wrath; Black Boy; Main Street; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Native Son; The Catcher in the Rye; The Color Purple.)
- What if...?
Choose a point in the story and change what happens so that Thea does not "get out what's inside of [her]" and find the success she craves. What happens instead? Does she become an "awful woman," as she tells Dr. Archie she will be if she fails? Write a scene that shows what could have become of Thea if she never became an artist.
- Cather and the opera
From what you know of both Thea and Willa Cather herself, why might Cather have chosen opera as the artistic medium in which her heroine would succeed? Research opera in general, and the works of the great German composer Richard Wagner in particular. Then create a short oral report for your class entitled, "What You Need to Know About Opera to Appreciate The Song of the Lark." You might introduce your classmates to opera by playing and discussing some of the Wagner pieces Thea sang. You might also give a brief description of why opera was so powerful and appealing for Cather. You may want to read the essays Willa and the Diva and Opera in America for your research.
Teaching The Song of the Lark | Using This Web Site | Willa and the Diva
Essays + Interviews | Novel to Film | A Cather Timeline
Opera in America | Prairie Settlement | Cast + Credits
Links and Bibliography | Teacher's Guide | The Forum
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