Category Archives: The Study

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Ashley Fredericks ’17 was awarded the 24th Annual Mark Twain Essay Prize as part of Commencement Weekend festivities for her graduating class at Elmira College. Ms. Frederick’s essay, titled “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: To Teach or Not to Teach,” enters the most volatile and publicized debate in Mark Twain Studies since the 1950s, concerning the appropriateness of Twain’s most acclaimed novel to secondary school classrooms based on its repeated invocation of the “n-word.” Ashley traces iterations of this controversy through Read more…


In a recent New York Times column heralding “The Collapse of American Identity,” Robert Jones  notes that British writer G.K. Chesterton once observed that the United States was “a nation with the soul of a church.” According to Jones, Chesterton “wasn’t referring to the nation’s religiosity but to its formation around a set of core political beliefs enshrined in founding ‘sacred texts,’ like the Declaration of Independence.” Jones uses Chesterton’s comment as a counterpoint to the “two mutually exclusive narratives emerging along party Read more…


There is perhaps no greater testament to Twain’s lasting reputation than the habitual misattribution of miscellaneous wit and wisdom to his name. The circulation of such apocryphal aphorisms was common enough in the 20th century. It has only increased with the popularization of digital media. The most common question addressed to the Center for Mark Twain Studies is some variety of “Did he really say that?” Whenever possible, we track down the original source, as well as attempt to trace Read more…


  Although Mark Twain’s religious skepticism is well-known, some of his closest friends were clergymen and persons with a strong faith. In Elmira, New York, Twain became good friends with a most unusual clergyman, the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, pastor of The Park Church, of which Jervis Langdon, Twain’s father-in-law, was a founding member. Please join CMTS for three nights of lectures at The Park Church, one of the most important historical and cultural landmarks in American religious history and Read more…


The 2016-2017 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series continues May 3 at Quarry Farm with the lecture and a special plaque dedication ceremony honoring the recent designation of Quarry Farm as a New York Literary Landmark.  The ceremony and lecture is free and open to the public. The evening begins with tours of the grounds at 5:00 p.m., followed by the plaque dedication and light refreshments.  The Trouble Begins lecture begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Barn at Quarry Farm and features independent scholar Barbara Jones Brown and her presentation, Read more…


Mark Twain was an immensely popular author. Based on this apparent truth, it has been convenient to regard him as populist as well. Contemporaneous critics dismissed him as “merely a humorist,” a characterization which he clearly internalized. Even those who praise his literary style often, like his friend William Dean Howells, invoke the slightly backhanded adjective natural. “Mr. Clemens is the first writer to use in extended writings the fashion we all use in thinking,” Howells said in 1901, “and to Read more…


The spring portion of the 2017 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, starts Wednesday, April 26, at 7:00 p.m., in Peterson Chapel, Cowles Hall at Elmira College.  The lecture is free and open to the public. The first lecture, “‘These Hideous Times:’ Mark Twain’s Bankruptcy and the Panic of 1893,” presented by Joseph Csicsila, takes a look at an old standby of Twain biography that Mark Twain was a bad businessman, plain and simple. Critics routinely cast him Read more…


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…

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