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Category Archives: The Study

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The Center for Mark Twain Studies is pleased to announce four winning entries for the “Portraying Mark Twain” Art Competition, a contest that has been ongoing from September 2016 through March 2017. The artists include Janine Velardi’19 (photo), Kaitlyn Ritz’18 (mixed media), Miranda Satterly’17 (digital drawing), and Nick Vanderwood’19 (chalk drawing). A panel of ten judges made up of Elmira College faculty and staff made the selections from entries that included photographs, drawings, digital collage and even a gif. The Read more…


Mark Twain’s world lecture tour in the mid-1890s, which he recounts in Following the Equator, was generally unpleasant for him. Not only did the humiliating stigma of bankruptcy that prompted the voyage haunt him, but while circumventing the globe with his wife Olivia and daughter Clara, Twain frequently suffered illness and depression. In South Africa, for example, Livy noted that her husband “has not as much courage as I wish he had [and] he has been pursued with colds and Read more…


In his 1903 essay “Why Not Abolish It?,” Mark Twain argues that the age of consent for extramarital relations should be abolished for women. Twain’s underlying premises are that young women are not responsible enough to make their own decisions about sex, that once a girl has engaged in sexual relations she is “dragged down into the mud and into enduring misery and shame,” and that, worst of all, so is her family. Why the family? Because she does not own Read more…


In 1985, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies inaugurated The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series. The title comes from a handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The lectures are now 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.  The Spring Read more…


The Staff of the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies is honored to announce that Quarry Farm has received the official designation as a New York State Literary Landmark. This designation was given by United for Libraries and the Empire State Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book, whose mission is to highlight areas of literary heritage and call attention to the importance of books, reading, literacy, and libraries. The Literary Read more…


Since the brutally divisive 2016 U.S. Presidential Election (was it really just four months ago?), the analogy between our present historical moment and Germany in the 1920s has become commonplace. Shortly after the election, both Roger Cohen in The New York Times and Richard Cohen in The Washington Post evoked the specter of Weimar to make sense of the current political moment, and many others have followed suit. Indeed, there are parallels. A polarized electorate suspicious of politicians facing an Read more…


The lecture schedule for Elmira 2017: The Eighth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies is now available. Over three days, participants of the conference will have access to twenty thematic paper sessions, consisting of sixty individual papers. In addition, participants can attend eight topic-focused panels, including: “The Assault of Laughter: A Roundtable” (Judith Yaross Lee, Chair) “The Place of Mark Twain in Digital Humanities Today” (Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Chair) “No Paine, No (Posthumous) Twain” (Terry Oggel, Chair) Read more…


On this day 132 years ago the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the first “banning” of Adventures of Huckleberry, by the Concord Public Library. Controversy has followed the novel ever since, with the most recent ruckus occurring just a few months ago in a Virginia school district. Recent attempts to suppress the book are prompted by its racially offensive language instead of snobby objections to “rough, ignorant dialect.” Both cases, however, seem fixated on the novel’s admittedly rude linguistic surface while missing the deeper moral undercurrents. Read more…


In 1867, Mark Twain addressed letters to Missouri expressing his disgust at the thought of women’s voting rights. He expressed that women should stick to their “feminine little trifles” that consisted of “babies…and knitting.” Twain speculated that women were not capable of making decisions about politics and should let the “natural bosses do the voting” instead. Twain described women as one might antique furniture: “an ornament to the place that she occupies.” Women are glorified stepping stones, everyday tools to Read more…


Friends of Woodlawn present ‘Close to Clemens‘ monologues, Stephen Foster music Eight friends and family members of Samuel Clemens who are buried close to the famous author in Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery will be “resurrected” on Sunday, March 26, to tell their stories. They will appear in a program entitled “Close to Clemens” at The Park Church, 211 Gray Street, Elmira, beginning at 3:00 p.m. The presentation will include monologues interspersed with music by Stephen Foster, a Clemens contemporary with strong ties Read more…


In The Innocents Abroad (1869), Mark Twain’s first bestseller and one of the most successful travel narratives in American literature, the acclaimed young author singled out and celebrated Damascus in his descriptions of Syria. In 1867, as a 32-year-old reporter for The Daily Alta California embedded with the Quaker City pilgrims, Twain had visited the Middle Eastern country. Highlighting the paradisiacal aspect ascribed to Damascus throughout history, Twain recorded that: In March 2016 I travelled from Dubai to Hartford, Connecticut, Read more…


“Fake news” isn’t really anything new. Robert Darnton points out in a recent essay in the New York Review of Books that “the concoction of alternative facts is hardly rare, and the equivalent of today’s poisonous, bite-size texts and tweets can be found in most periods of history, going back to the ancients.” As noted previously in this blog, in his early career as a journalist Mark Twain dabbled in this ignoble practice himself. He confessed in a speech he gave Read more…

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