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Antonia's Accent

Antonia's Accent

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Willa Cather chose to place an accent over the first syllable in her memorable character's name — Ántonia — to indicate the greater stress that syllable would receive when the name was pronounced.


Visitors to this site will note that except in rare instances, we have not included the accent in our references to the character or to My Antonia. Some of these visitors will, with justification, wonder how we could have committed this startling faux pas. So an explanation is in order.


The simple fact is, many visitors to our site, especially newcomers to the works of Willa Cather, will come in search of Antonia. If all references here were to Ántonia, visitors who come via Internet search engines would not find us — or they would not find us so easily as they might. By relaxing the rules this way, we have simply tried to help them find their way to us.


It has been suggested that this is a liberty of which Willa Cather herself would not approve. We don't necessarily disagree, but that's a debate we're quite willing to conduct. As readers of the Scholarly Edition of the novel will know: "In Czech the name would be spelled 'Antonie' with the final syllable being pronounced 'eh' not 'uh.' The first syllable would receive the most stress but would not have an accent over it, as Cather preferred to write it."

--Tom Gallagher, Willa Cather Foundation Board Member