CMTS’ Own, Barbara Snedecor, To Present at Next Park Church Lecture

The 2018 Park Church Lecture Series, hosted by the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, begins Wednesday, June 20 in the historic and cultural landmark, The Park Church, 208 W. Gray Street, Elmira.  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“’…there is only one thing of real importance…’: The Letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens” Barbara Snedecor, Elmira College

Olivia Langdon Clemens

The letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens reveal her deep emotion as well as the more ordinary impulses of her thought. In communications with friends and family, and with her world- famous spouse, Olivia exposes her intelligence, fortitude, gentleness, kindness, humor, love for husband and children—along with her anxieties, self-deprecation, and flaws. Possibly the following statement, written to her husband during their plunge towards bankruptcy, best indicates her world view: “I feel so strongly these days that we have not a great while to stay here and that there is only one thing of real importance to us. To do all the good that we can and leave an irreproachable name behind us” (9 April 1893). The presentation will summarize critical views of Olivia as well as highlight selections from her letters.

Barbara Snedecor directed the Center for Mark Twain Studies and was an Assistant Professor of American Literature at Elmira College. In 2015, she was awarded the Living Heritage Award by the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce. In 2017, she received the Henry Nash Smith Award. She has published novels, personal essays, and poetry as well as Mark Twain in Elmira, Second Edition, and scholarly essays connected with Mark Twain Studies. She currently is preparing a collection of the letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens for publication.

About The Park Church
Founded in 1846 by a group of abolitionists, The Park Church has been a strong presence in Elmira’s history and some members of its congregation were close friends and family members to Mark Twain.  Known for its striking architectural features, The Park Church contained Elmira’s first public library and has a long history of charitable service to the Elmira community.  Currently, it is an “Open and Affirming Congregation,” welcoming all people to worship and participate in its communal life, regardless of ethnic origin, race, class, age, ability, gender, or sexual orientation.

About the Center for Mark Twain Studies
The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded in January 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by Jervis Langdon, the great-grand-nephew of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The Center offers distinctive programs to foster and support Mark Twain scholarship and to strengthen the teaching of Mark Twain at all academic levels. The Center serves the Elmira College community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain.

Park Church Lecture Series Begins This Wednesday

The 2018 Park Church Lecture Series, hosted by the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, begins Wednesday, June 13 in the historic and cultural landmark, The Park Church, 208 W. Gray Street, Elmira.  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

Linnaeus Manuscript

The first lecture, “Fingerprints and Microbe Time: Mark Twain and Scientific Skepticism,” is presented by James W. Leonard, adjunct English professor with The Citadel.  It is well known that Twain took contemporary social, political, and particularly racial beliefs to task through an incisive skepticism which outpaced many of his generation. But Twain also understood the role that science and empiricism played in the formation and justification of social projects. Like many of his time, he was thrilled by the explosion of new technologies and systems that characterized the 19th century. For example, we know from his personal writings how excited he was to include Francis Galton’s discovery of fingerprinting in Pudd’nhead Wilson. But even in that excitement, Twain never lost sight of his characteristic skepticism, and a closer look at his literary portrayal of science reveals a visionary’s understanding of how empirical facts- -and the systems organizing those facts–would be increasingly scrutinized as social and political tools in literature of the 20th century.

Leonard recently received his Ph.D. from Tufts University and is currently an adjunct professor of English at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. While much of his research focuses on 20th-century authors (particularly Djuna Barnes, Cormac McCarthy, and Leslie Marmon Silko), he is particularly interested in Mark Twain’s capacity for identifying and articulating complex forms of social critique that would only be popularized years after his death. His current research on Twain looks at his insistence on filtering empiricism through satire.

About The Park Church
Founded in 1846 by a group of abolitionists, The Park Church has been a strong presence in Elmira’s history and some members of its congregation were close friends and family members to Mark Twain.  Known for its striking architectural features, The Park Church contained Elmira’s first public library and has a long history of charitable service to the Elmira community.  Currently, it is an “Open and Affirming Congregation,” welcoming all people to worship and participate in its communal life, regardless of ethnic origin, race, class, age, ability, gender, or sexual orientation.

About the Center for Mark Twain Studies
The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded in January 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by Jervis Langdon, the great-grand-nephew of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The Center offers distinctive programs to foster and support Mark Twain scholarship and to strengthen the teaching of Mark Twain at all academic levels. The Center serves the Elmira College community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain.

Twain Scholar Ben Click Concludes the Spring 2018 Trouble Begins Series

The spring portion of the 2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, May 30 in Cowles Hall, Elmira College.  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

From Chapter 31 of the first edition (1885) of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The fourth and final lecture, “My Penchant for Silence: Mark Twain’s Rhetorical Art of the Unspoken” will be given by Ben Click, St. Mary’s College of Maryland. There is no shortage of commentary on Twain’s penchant for talk, how he transliterated and employed it. He perfected the mock oral narrative, precisely rendered of frontier and river vernacular, created the stunning narrative method of Huck Finn’s voice, and crafted countless, repeatable maxims (ironically, one being: “I talk until I have my audience cowed”). Yet, silence permeates the writings of Mark Twain–for example, there are over 150 references to silence in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn alone! Examining its functions is an overlooked, yet integral, aspect of his writing for silence mediates and influences the discourses of his fictive and personal worlds. Rhetorical theorist Cheryl Glenn argues, “silence—the unspoken—is a rhetorical art that can be as powerful as the spoken or written word”. Twain too understood that power: “The unspoken word is capital. We can invest it or we can squander it.” Indeed, Twain crafted the full measure of that art on the page throughout his writing life. This talk examines representative (and powerful) rhetorical uses of silence in the arc of Twain’s fictive writing.

Ben Click is a professor of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, director of the Writing & Speaking Center, director of the Twain Lecture Series on American Humor Culture, and the associate editor of the Mark Twain Annual. With Larry Howe and Jim Caron, he published Refocusing Chaplin: A Screen Icon in Critical Contexts. He has given numerous lectures and scholarly papers on Mark Twain, published articles and book chapters on the teaching of writing and writing assessment. He is also working on a book that examines humor as a rhetorical strategy in environmental writing, a genre that is sometimes seen as taking itself too seriously.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

The 2018 Quarry Farm Symposium: American Literary History & Economics in The New Gilded Age

The economic expansion of the U.S. during Mark Twain’s lifetime was unprecedented, in this country or any other. Twain was famously fascinated by the technological innovations that transformed commerce and industry, the volatile financial markets that strained to keep up with the demands of entrepreneurs and investors, the infamous magnates that accumulated private fortunes unimaginable to previous generations, the corrosive symbiosis of private wealth and public service, the precarious plight of consumers and laborers who both drove the economy and were periodically driven over by it, and the fledgling field of philosophical inquiry, political economy, aimed at understanding the organizing principles of capitalist society.

Before anybody suspected he would become the literary figure who defined the era, Twain gave it its lasting nickname, the Gilded Age, recognizing that the luxurious lifestyles of America’s nouveau riche celebrities and the bedazzling technologies advertised by American entrepreneurs disguised deep disparities of wealth, exploitative employment practices, systemic corruption, and widespread financial fraud.

As we find ourselves in what is now frequently called “The New Gilded Age,” characterized by many of the same phenomena, CMTS’s Fifth Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium will feature scholars who explore the intersections of economic history, economic theory, mass media, and literature.

The symposium will begin on Friday, October 5, 2018, with a dinner in Meier Hall on the Elmira College campus, followed by a keynote address by David Sloan Wilson, who is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology & Anthropology at Binghamton University, as well as co-founder of The Evolution Institute and Evonomics.com, and author of numerous books, most recently Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes, & the Welfare of Others.

The symposium will continue throughout the next day in the tranquil atmosphere of Quarry Farm, where breakfast, lunch, and dinner will also be served. Registrants will be invited back to Quarry Farm on Sunday morning to enjoy an autumnal breakfast and casual discussions.

Click here for further details and registration.

We are proud to partner with the journal American Literary Historyedited by Gordon Hutner and published by Oxford University Press. ALH will be compiling a special issue on the same topic in 2019.

Also, as part of our ongoing commitment to supporting emerging scholars, a selected number of graduate students will be offered free registration and complimentary on-campus housing. For more information, see registration form.

We look forward to welcoming the following scholars:

Co-Organizers:

Larry Howe is Professor of English at Roosevelt University, where he teaches courses in American literature, African-American literature, Canadian literature, and Film Studies. He is the author of Mark Twain and the Novel (Cambridge, 1998), Refocusing Chaplin: A Screen Icon Through Critical Lenses (Scarecrow, 2013), and co-editor with Henry Wonham of Mark Twain & Money: Language, Capital, & Culture (U. Alabama, 2017). He is Vice President of the Mark Twain Circle and Editor of Studies in American Humor, published by Penn State University Press. In 2014-15, he was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair of American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

 

Matt Seybold is Assistant Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College and editor of MarkTwainStudies.org. He is co-editor with Michelle Chihara of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics. His econo-literary scholarship has been published by Aeon Magazine, American Studies, boundary 2, Henry James Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Mark Twain Annual, T.S. Eliot Studies Annual, and Western Humanities Review. He is currently working on a book about the “rhyme of crisis” in U.S. capitalism.

 

 

Henry Wonham is Professor fo English at University of Oregon. He is co-editor with Larry Howe of Mark Twain & Money (U. Alabama, 2017) and editor of the new Norton Critical Edition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (2018). Other publications include Playing the Races: Ethnic Caricture and American Literary Realism (Oxford, 2004) and Mark Twain and the Art of the Tall Tale (Oxford, 1993), as well as numerous essays and editorial work on Mark Twain, Henry James, Charles Chesnutt, and others. Prof. Wonham is also Associate Editor of American Literary Realism and a contributed the “Economics of American Literary Realism” chapter to the Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics.

 

Panelists:

Michael Anesko is Professor of English & American Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He has published extensively on Anglo-American literary culture, including five books that have established critical benchmarks in their respective fields: “Friction with the Market”: Henry James and the Profession of Authorship (Oxford, 1986); Letters, Fictions, Lives: Henry James and William Dean Howells (Oxford, 1997); The French Face of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Monsieur de l’Aubépine and His Second Empire Critics (Ohio State, 2011); Monopolizing the Master: Henry James and the Politics of Modern Literary Scholarship (Stanford, 2012); and, most recently, Generous Mistakes: Incidents of Error in Henry James (Oxford, 2017). He is a General Editor of the Cambridge Edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James and has prepared a new authoritative text of The Portrait of a Lady (2016) for that series. He is also now Co-General Editor of The Complete Letters of Henry James, published by the University of Nebraska Press.

 

Mary Balkun is Professor & Chair of English at Seton Hall University. She is author of The American Counterfeit: Authenticity and Identity in American Literature and Culture (U. Alabama, 2016), as well as articles on Phillis Wheatley, Sarah Kemble Knight, Walt Whitman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner. She contributed the “Print Revolution & Paper Money” chapter to the Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics. She is also associate editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry (2005). Her interests include material culture, gender studies, women’s travel narratives, and identity construction. She is currently working on a study of the grotesque in early American Literature.

 

Nathaniel Cadle is Associate professor of English at Florida International University. He is the author of The Mediating Nation:  Late American Realism, Globalization, and the Progressive State (UNC, 2014), winner of the 2015 SAMLA Studies Book Award. His current book project, tentatively entitled Realism, the Romantic Revival, and the Rise of Modernism, examines the popular revival of historical, utopian, and other forms of romantic fiction at the turn of the twentieth century and its impact on the transition from literary realism to modernism. The research for this project has been supported by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Cadle’s most recent work is forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Realism (2019).

 

Gregg Camfield is Professor of English & Vice Provost of Faculty at University of California – Merced. He has published widely on American literature and culture, from 18th century poet Joel Barlow to the television cartoon Beavis and Butt-Head. Mostly he has worked on the ethical and esthetic debates of the nineteenth-century, concentrating on the works of Mark Twain, American literary humor, literary sentimentalism and domesticity. These perspectives inform his three books, Sentimental Twain: Mark Twain in the Maze of Moral Philosophy (U. Penn, 1994), Necessary Madness: The Humor of Domesticity in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Oxford, 1997), and The Oxford Companion to Mark Twain (2003). Currently he is carrying forward the implications of the second book in a study of what new discoveries in neuroscience can tell us about how people respond to literature and other complex artistic representations.

 

Ranjit Dighe is Professor of Economics at SUNY – Oswego, where he specializes in U.S. economic history, macroeconomics, and sports economics. He is author of The Historian’s Huck Finn: Reading Mark Twain’s Masterpiece as Social & Economic History (Praeger, 2016) and The Historian’s Wizard of Oz: Reading L. Frank Baum’s Classic as a Political & Monetary Allegory (Praeger, 2002). He has also published several papers on wages, prohibition, and Keynesianism during the Great Depression.

 

 

Sean X. Goudie is Associate Professor of English & Director of the Center for American Literary Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He is author of Creole America: The West Indies & The Formation of Literature & Culture in the New Republic (U. Penn, 2006), which won the MLA Prize for a First Book. Under his directorship, CALS has undertaken many important initiatives, including the founding of C19: the Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists and the First Book Institute. His current book project, entitled The Banana Republic, examines a range of cultural responses produced both in the Caribbean and in North America to the expansion of several US corporations into the Caribbean and the Caribbean Basin during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

 

Sheri-Marie Harrison is Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri where she researches and teaches Caribbean literary and cultural studies, Contemporary global Anglophone literature, and mass culture of the African Diaspora. Her first book Difficult Subjects: Negotiating Sovereignty in Postcolonial Jamaican Literature was published by the Ohio State University Press in 2014, and her research has been published in various venues including Modern Fiction Studies, Small Axe, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia and Los Angeles Review of Books. She currently serves as a member of University of Missouri Press advisory board, an elected member of the Postcolonial Studies forum of the Modern Languages Association, and the motherboard of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. She has a forthcoming chapter in the multi-volume edited collection Caribbean Literature in Transition and is also currently working on a manuscript tentatively titled After the Beginning Ends: Contemporary Fiction and Iconoclasm.

 

Christian Kloeckner is Lecturer in North American Studies at Universitat Bonn, as well as a Feodor Lynen Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Barnard College and Columbia University in 2017-2018. He has also received Fulbright American Studies grants for research at Harvard and New York University in 2013-2014. He is author of The Writing of Terrorism: Contemporary American Fiction & Maurice Blanchot (Peter Lang, 2017) and has contributed both essays and editorial work to numerous collections and special issues, notably Beyond 9/11: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Twenty-First Century U.S. American Culture (Peter Lang, 2013), Knowledge Landscapes North America (U. Heidelberg, 2016), and a forthcoming special issue of Finance & Society on “Financial Times.” He current book project focuses on credit, debt, and nostalgia in American culture.

 

Andrew Kopec is Assistant Professor of English at Purdue University – Fort Wayne. His scholarship, exploring the relationship between early American literature and the market, has appeared in Early American Literature, ELH, ESQ, PMLA, and The Eighteenth Century. He authored the “Assymetric Information” chapter in The Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics. His book-in-progress, “The Pace of Panic: American Romanticism & The Business Cycle,” contributes to a financial turn among Americanists by examining how romantic texts responded to, even exploited, the panics that punctuate life before the Civil War. In doing so, the book reveals the surprising resonances of texts typically dismissed as economically naïve.

 

Ann Ryan, Professor is O’Connell Professor of the Humanities at Le Moyne College. She is co-editor with Joseph McCullough of Cosmopolitan Twain (U. Missouri, 2008) and frequent contributor to journals and collections, including Mark Twain & Money (U. Alabama, 2017). She is an emeritus editor of Mark Twain Annual and past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America. In 2013, she was recognized as the seventh Henry Nash Smith Fellow for her lasting contributions to Mark Twain Studies.

 

 

David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology & Anthropology at Binghamton University, as well as co-founder and President of the Evolution Institute, co-fouder of Evonomics.com, and editor-in-cheif of This View of Life magazine. His books, many of which include interdisciplinary engagement with economic history and theory, include Darwin’s Cathedral (U. Chicago, 2002), Evolution for Everyone (Delacorte, 2007), The Neighborhood Project (Little Brown & Co., 2011), and Does Altruism Exist? (Yale, 2015). He is also co-editor of The Literary Animal (Northwestern, 2005) with Jonathan Gottschall and Pathological Altruism (Oxford, 2011).

 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to join our symposium and engage with the work of this impressive roster of scholars. Space is limited. Register now!

Twain in Hawaii is the focus of the next Trouble Begins Lecture

Elmira, New York — The spring portion of the 2017-2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, May 23 in Cowles Hall, Elmira College.  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

From Chapter 73 of the First Edition of “Roughing It” (1872)

The third lecture, “An American Cannibal at Home: Comic Diplomacy in Mark Twain’s Hawai’i” will be presented by Todd Nathan Thompson from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. During and after his 1866 visit to Hawai’i, Mark Twain wrote about the place, its people, and their relationship to the United States in several different genres: newspaper articles, first as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union (1866) and then for other papers, including the New York Herald; a popular lecture titled “Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands” (1866-1873); two travelogues, Roughing It (1872) and A Tramp Abroad (1880), and an unfinished novel (1884). In my talk I will investigate the comic strategies he employs in these works – particularly self-effacement, satiric levelling, comic foils, physical comedy, and sarcastic irony – to show how Twain leveraged the ambivalence of social humor’s to stoke Americans’ interest in Hawai’i while simultaneously defending Hawaiians from “other”-ing stereotypes that—even as early as 1866 – he saw as intimately tied to Americans’ imperialist urges.

Thompson, is an associate professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he also serves as assistant chair of the English Department. He is author of The National Joker: Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Satire (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015). Thompson’s work on political satire and pre-1900 American literature has also appeared in Scholarly EditingEarly American LiteratureESQNineteenth-Century ProseJournal of American CultureStudies in American HumorTeaching American Literaturethe Blackwell Companion to Poetic Genre, and elsewhere. He is currently at work on a new book project entitled Savage Laughter: Nineteenth-Century American Humor and the South Seas.

This week’s lecture also includes the announcement of two annual contests: the 2018 “Portraying Mark Twain” Art Competition awards and the 2018 “Mark Twain Essay” prize.  Each year, a panel of judges chose from both art and prose submissions by Elmira College students, some of which may be featured in future CMTS publications.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Trouble Begins Lecture Series Continues With A Discussion on Race, Law, and Satire

The spring portion of the 2017-2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, May 16 in The Barn at Quarry Farm.  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

From the 1899 Harper & Brothers Edition of Puddn’head Wilson

The second lecture, “Raising the Bar: Satirizing Law in Puddn’head Wilson and The Sellout” will be presented by Rebecca Nisetich from the Honors Program at University of Southern Maine. This lecture explores how American writers use satire to expose the ways that “race” operates in our political institutions, social practices, and cultural discourses. In Puddn’head Wilson, Twain shows what happens when legal discourse is taken to its logical extreme. Contemporary novelist Paul Beatty similarly satirizes America’s racial structure and—like Twain—he takes aim at the legal system that support it. Twain’s novel is produced in the legal wrangling leading up to the Plessy v. Ferguson decision; Beatty’s novel responds to the present-day nadir of African American jurisprudence: the 2013 Supreme Court ruling which overturned critical aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the effect of the subprime lending crisis on African American homeowners, and the spate of “Not Guilty” verdicts in the deaths of African American men. As Twain, Beatty, and others demonstrate, we cannot escape these fundamentally racist legal and social structures until we have created other viable options. As racial satirist Patrice Evans writes, “When we laugh…we are making light, but [we are] also setting the groundwork for raising the bar.” For these American writers, satire becomes a powerful means for undermining racist narratives.

Nisetich directs the Honors Program at the University of Southern Maine, where she teaches inter-disciplinary courses on race and identity in the U.S. Her manuscript, Contested Identities, explores characters whose identities are not clearly articulated, defined, or knowable. The project underscores indeterminacy—as opposed to ambiguity or “mixture”—as enabling writers to undermine the “one-drop” conceptions of race that dominated the discourse on race in early twentieth century America. Her essays have appeared in African American ReviewStudies in American Naturalism, and elsewhere.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

2018 Summer Teachers’ Institute: “Mark Twain In Color”

For the registration form and full Institute schedule, click here.

The Center for Mark Twain Studies is once again collaborating with the Schuyler-Chemung- Tioga-Corning Teachers’ Center to offer the 2018 Summer Teachers’ Institute in July (Tuesday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 11).  This two-day institute is held in the Gannett-Tripp Library on the Elmira College campus and at Quarry Farm.

The theme this year is “Mark Twain In Color.”

Join Kerry Driscoll, Ann M. Ryan, and Matt Seybold as they explore Mark Twain’s complicated reading (and writing) of race in Nineteenth Century America. We like to think of Mark Twain, “the man in white,” as absolutely progressive when it came to issues of race and ethnicity, but Twain’s journey toward enlightenment had many bumps in the road. Some of his attitudes were remarkable and forward thinking; others were more backward and reactionary—all of which makes Mark Twain less an icon of goodness and more m human. We’ll look at Twain’s portraits—in both his fictional and non-fictional work—of African Americans, Native Americans, and Chinese immigrants, as well as his reflections on his own white identity. We’ll discuss Twain’s acute sensitivity to injustice and violence, and how it often competes with racial prejudice—some of which he inherits and some of which he hones. Our hope is that the teachers who attend this Institute will find in Twain’s lifelong reflections on race, as well as his struggles with prejudice, stories to share with students who also struggle with this complicated shared history.

Elmira College is the perfect place to “talk Twain,” since it is the home of the international Center for Mark Twain Studies. The Center has stewardship of Quarry Farm, the summer home of Olivia Langdon Clemens’ family and site of her sister Susan Crane’s home (and later dairy). Quarry Farm also includes the original location of the Study as well as the landmark home where Clemens wrote and first read many of his major writings to his family while on the porch at “the Farm.”

Your $65 registration fee includes:

  • Two breakfasts and two lunches
  • A custom reader with all the texts used during the Institute
  • A gift from the Center for Mark Twain Studies

In order to prepare for discussion, the texts will be mailed to you upon receipt of your registration payment, or you may arrange to pick them up at Elmira College.

MEET OUR FACULTY

Kerry Driscoll is Professor of English at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, CT and the current President of the Mark Twain Circle of America. She is the recipient of a 2007 faculty research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a book manuscript, Mark Twain among the Indians, which was just published in June 2018.

Ann M. Ryan is the Kevin G. O’Connell Distinguished Professor of English at Le Moyne College. Her publications include A Due Voci: The Photographs of Rita Hammond, many published essays on Mark Twain and other authors, and Cosmopolitan Twain, co-edited with Joseph McCullough. For seven years, she was editor of the Mark Twain Annual.

Matt Seybold is Assistant Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, as well as editor of MarkTwainStudies.org. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics. Recent publications can be found in Aeon Magazine, American Studies, boundary 2, Henry James Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Mark Twain Annual, Reception, and T.S. Eliot Studies Annual.

INSTITUTE SCHEDULE

Tuesday, July 10 at Gannett-Tripp Library on the Elmira College Campus

8:15 – 8:55 Registration and Light Breakfast

9:00 – 10:00 Session #1- “Becoming Twain in Black and White” – We’ll trace Twain’s journey through the fraught history of race in nineteenth-century America. Twain forged complicated relationships with slaves during his childhood, which both haunt and inspire him for the rest of his life.

10:00 – 10:15 Mid-morning Break

10:15 – 11:30 Session #2 – Conjuring Black Voices-Echoing through his writings are the voices of the black people Twain knew, as well as those he thought he knew. We’ll listen to Twain conjure their voices through the prism of his memory.

11:30 – 12:30 Luncheon Buffet

12:30 – 1:30 Session #3 -”The Romance and Terror of Indians” – An exploration of Clemens’s early attitudes toward Native Americans, particularly the images of the “noble” and “ignoble” savage as reflected in the novels of James Fenimore Cooper, as well as the history/politics in Indian removal in antebellum Missouri.

1:30 – 1:45 Mid-afternoon Break

1:45 – 3:00 Session #4 – “Indians Reimagined” – A discussion of short works: “A Visit to Niagara” (1869); “The Noble Red Man” (1870); Chapter 19 of Roughing It on “Goshoot” Indians (1872)

Closing Visit to the Study, the Exhibit, and historic Cowles Hall

Wednesday, July 11 AT QUARRY FARM

8:15 – 8:55 Arrival at Quarry Farm and light breakfast

9:00 – 10:00 Session #1 – “Comparative Racialization” – With particular attention to short writings from San Francisco newspapers, we will discuss how witness the exploitative treatment of Chinese laborers in the West awoke young Samuel Clemens to the hypocritical racial politics of Jacksonian America.

10:00 – 10:15 Mid-morning Break

10:15 – 11:30 Session #2 – “The Anti-Imperialist Imagination” – A brief tour through the anti-imperialist writings of Twain’s late phase, with particular attention to “The Fable of the Yellow Terror,” in which he offers an eerily prophetic account of Chinese – American relations in the century to come.

11:30 – 12:30 Lunch and Tour of the Grounds of Quarry Farm

12:30 – 1:30 Session #3 “There’s all kinds here…When the Deity builds a heaven, it is built right, and on a liberal plan” – Exploring Racial and Cultural Diversity in “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” (1907)

1:30 – 1:45 Mid-afternoon Break

1:45 – 3:00 Session #4 – Concluding Session/Lesson Planning Teachers are invited to pull together their observations and readings into a lesson or assignment for their students

Award-Winning Author, Critic Kicks Off The 2018 Trouble Begins Lecture Series

The Center for Mark Twain Studies kicks off its Spring 2018 Trouble Begins lecture series by hosting Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy Award-winning writer and critic, on Wednesday, March 21 at 7:00 p.m. in Cowles Hall, Elmira College. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Powers’ presentation, “Travelin’ Man,” looks into how Mark Twain’s prodigious travels around his region, then the nation, and then the world, have provided pleasure and scholarly thought for more than a century. Somewhat less appreciated has been the transformative effect Twain’s lifelong appetite for exploration (“move–move–Move!,” Twain wrote in a letter to his family) produced upon American literature, the legitimacy of common vernacular, and even the nation’s final psychic break with Old Europe. Speaking (mostly) in sentences even shorter than the preceding, Powers will examine this divine compulsion that hastened America’s literary Declaration of Independence.

Powers is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books, including Flags of Our Fathers (2000), a New York Times #1 bestseller. He has written extensively on Mark Twain and his literature, including a biography, Mark Twain: A Life (2005), also a New York Times bestseller. His current book, No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America (2017), has been named a finalist for the PEN/E.O Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. The book has also been named “Notable Book of the Year” by the Washington Post and one of the Top Ten books of the year by People magazine.

For a PDF copy of the Spring 2018 Trouble Begins Lecture Schedule, click here.

The Final 2017 “Trouble Begins” Lecture Explores Obsession

The fall portion of the 2017-2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, concludes Wednesday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m., in Peterson Chapel, Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus. The lecture will be followed by a book sale and author signing.

Author and professor of English, Harold K. Bush will present the final fall lecture, “Collecting Mark Twain: Obsessions over the Great Authors and The Hemingway Files.”  According to Bush, obsession is frequently an overlooked focus of major literary works. In novels like Moby-DickThe Picture of Dorian GrayPossessionThe Aspern PapersThe Great Gatsby, and many others, characters are often driven to extremes by their various obsessions over various objects or concerns. But sometimes obsession infiltrates the author’s audience as well. One manifestation of this is when a reader’s relation to and obsession with a famous author leads to a powerful yearning to collect: a desire to gather and accumulate almost anything ever owned or scribbled by the celebrity author.

One theme of Bush’s own novel The Hemingway Files is just this desire: in particular, a wealthy collector intent on purchasing Hemingway manuscripts and Twain letters. Such obsessive collecting is not unusual among bibliophiles. But, asks Bush, why do we collect? How does one begin the long journey of any sort of collecting? And what are the pros and cons of obsessive connection to iconic writers like Hemingway and Mark Twain? This lecture will consider how individuals get drawn into such compulsive relations with these long dead writers and other celebrities: including Bush’s own lengthy journey into the heart of Mark Twain studies, and into the composition of his novel, The Hemingway Files.

In addition to teaching at Saint Louis University, Bush is author of six books, including Mark Twain and the Spiritual Crisis of His Age (2007) and Lincoln in His Own Time (2012). He has most recently completed Continuing Bonds with the Dead: Parental Grief and Nineteenth-Century American Authors (2016). He is lead editor of The Mark Twain-Joseph Twichell Correspondence (2017) and of Above the American Renaissance: David Reynolds and the Spiritual Imagination in American Literary Studies, which will appear in 2018. His first novel, titled The Hemingway Files, was published in the summer of 2017. He is presently at work on a study of spirituality and American literature and culture, titled Spiritual Blink!

All lectures in “The Trouble Begins” Lecture Series are free and open to the public.

Twain and Chaucer Are Featured in Next “Trouble Begins” Lecture

The fall portion of the 2017-2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, October 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Barn at Quarry Farm.

The lecture, “Mark Twain and the Narrative Magic of Medieval Literacy Spunk-Water Stumps” will be presented by Liam Purdon from Doane University. While much instructive scholarship has been published treating Mark Twain’s interest in and use of Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur as predecessor text for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, his interest in and use of works from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as potential predecessor texts for The Prince and the Pauper and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc constitute a dimension of his medievalism that invites further inquiry.

We know Twain read Chaucer carefully since one of his Christmas presents to Livy in 1874, Thomas Tyrwhitt’s most recent edition of Chaucer’s poetical works, bears the impress of his imagination in thoughtful as well as humorous penciled marginalia in the Squire’s Tale, the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, and the Friar’s Tale. We also know the narrative structuring device of the Canterbury Tales’s pilgrimage itself caught his attention given its incorporation in A Connecticut Yankee in chapter 21 when Hank Morgan and Sandy join a “company of pilgrims” who tell tales “that would have embarrassed ‘the best English society twelve centuries later.’” However, understanding how the Squire’s Tale’s emphasis upon the relationship between effective translation and character may offer a narrative structuring device for the Prince and the Pauper, as well as understanding how the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale’s emphasis upon manipulation of differing world-conceptions may offer a narrative structuring device for Joan of Arc, provides an instructive perspective on narrative construction worthy of consideration since it sheds light on the imaginatively effective ways in which Chaucerian predecessor texts appear to help Twain align his later literary works and vision with great works identified as foundational to the establishment of English literary and cultural tradition.

Purdon, professor of English at Doane University, specializes in medieval British literature, which has enabled him over the years to publish and make presentations on a number of well-known works by Chaucer, the Pearl-Poet, and other medieval authors. Interest in the Wakefield Master’s “play doctoring,” a course of study encouraged by late-twentieth-century examinations of material culture in plays of the York and Chester Cycles, led in 2003 to publication of new “readings” of the Master’s play revisions in light of the late-medieval emphasis upon the morality of technology. Continuing interest in 19th and 20th century American authors in general and Mark Twain in particular has led to interest in examining Twain’s creative medievalism, as well as the relationship between contemporary American author Tom Robbins and Twain.

All lectures in “The Trouble Begins” Lecture Series are free and open to the public.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in Peterson Chapel, Cowles the Barn at Quarry Farm in Elmira, NY.

The lectures, now titled The Trouble Begins, are held in the Fall and Spring of each year, in the barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.