CMTS Announces the Spring 2019 Trouble Begins Lecture Series

The Center for Mark Twain Studies is proud to announce the Spring 2019 Trouble Begins Lecture Series. This diverse, accomplished line-up is a testament to the rich potential of Mark Twain Studies. CMTS is honored to present and support these scholars. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Visit the “Trouble Begins Archives” for a downloadable recording of all these talks and other past lectures. You can also see past “Trouble Begins” programs and CMTS quadrennial conference and symposia programs.

In 1985, the Center for Mark Twain Studies inaugurated The Trouble Begins 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 “Trouble Begins” Lecture Series is sponsored by the Michael J. Kiskis Memorial Fund. The “Trouble Begins” and the “Summer at The Park Church” Lecture Series are also made possible by the support of the Mark Twain Foundation and the Friends of the Center.

Wednesday, May 8 in The Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“Writing About Sexuality: Mark Twain’s Private Work Made Public”

Linda Morris, University of California, Davis

After a relatively free-wheeling period in his life in the American West, Mark Twain courted and married a genteel young women from a prominent Elmira family, and he became the paterfamilias of a thoroughly Victorian family of his own. His major published works were deemed suitable reading for young men and women alike, and he raised his three daughters in a strictly Victorian, protected, and proper mode. Nevertheless, when speaking before all-male groups, or writing privately, he addressed sexual topics with frankness suffused with humor. Later in his life, in work not intended for publication, he let loose with explicit sexual references and frank talk about both male and female sexuality. This talk will examine a range of the works in which sexuality plays a major role, the language and metaphors he used to express sexual topics, and the sometimes surprising attitudes the work reveals.

Linda A. Morris is Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis. She has writ- ten extensively about women’s humor in 19th and 20th century America, including a book-length study on the writer Miriam Whitcher (“The Widow Bedott”), and essays on Mary Lasswell and Roz Chast. Her work on Mark Twain includes her book Gender Play in Mark Twain: Cross-Dressing and Transgression, and essays on Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, “Gender Bending as Child’s Play,” Aunt Sally Phelps in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and “Hellfire Hotchkiss.” She was the 2017 recipient of “The Olivia Langdon Clemens Award” by the Mark Twain Circle of America, and the 2018 recipient of “The Charlie Award” by the American Humor Studies Association.

Wednesday, May 15 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus

“‘Infinitely-Divided Stardust’: Mark Twain and Lawyer Talk”

J. Mark Baggett, Samford University
From the 1899 Harper & Brothers
 Edition of Puddn’Head Wilson

Told by the New Orleans fortune teller Madame Caprell that he should have been a lawyer, Samuel Clemens dismissed the law as “too prosy and tiresome.” But his immersion in legal language and legal fictions betrayed him. From the early days of his career, covering the Nevada Territorial legislature and reporting on the police and court beat in the Territorial Enterprise, he plied what he called the “trade language” of the law. His legal burlesques of that formative period, including the first use of the pseudonym “Mark Twain” in “Ye Sentimental Law Student,” show the emerging burlesque patterns that appear in his novels. These burlesques also parallel important 19th century movements in American law that democratized and simplified legalese. This lecture will explore these burlesques from a legal perspective and trace their influence, particularly in the dramatic stagings of court trials that appear so often in his longer works. Twain himself once pronounced that a great writer must have an “infinitely divided stardust,” a genius who understood humanity from the two essential disciplines: literature and the law.

Mark Baggett is Associate Professor of English and Law at Samford University and Cumberland School of Law. His recent research on Twain’s use of legal rhetoric is an outgrowth of his teaching law at Cumberland since 1987. He contributed articles on legal issues in the Mark Twain Encyclopedia and is working on a book-length project on Mark Twain and the law, building on interdisciplinary research on Twain’s broad appropriation of legal rhetoric.

Wednesday, May 22 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus

“Quarry Farm: Family Retreat with 1,631 Lightning Rods”

Elise Johnson-Schmidt, AIA, Preservation Architect
Quarry Farm in the 1880’s

In May 1869, Jervis Langdon purchases the land on Elmira’s east hill. It is there that he establishes the Langdon’s summer home, Quarry Farm – a place of respite which the family enjoys for 100 years. Sadly, Langdon dies shortly after its completion, but his oldest daughter, Susan Crane, inherits the house. She generously and joyously shares Quarry Farm with her sister, Olivia Clemens, Livy’s new husband, Samuel Clemens, and the Clemens children for the next twenty years. Sam and Livy embark on their “long European sojourn” in 1890 and do not return until 1895, which turns out to be Livy’s last stay. During a time of transition, before Susan and Theodore Crane begin their chapter of life at Quarry Farm, Sam Clemens is “running two house- holds – one up here on the farm & one in Buffalo…and Mr. and Mrs. Crane stay here with us, & we do have perfectly royal good times.” This lecture will focus on how Quarry Farm was used by the family and changes made to the house by Langdon family members. It will also discuss the lecturer’s interpretation of a story written during Clemens’ management of the farm – “The Lightning Rod Story” – a satire about dealing with contractors – which could be as true today as it was then.

Quarry Farm Today

Elise Johnson-Schmidt is a preservation architect with 35 years of experience, whose firm specializes in historic preservation. Her firm has undertaken over 200 revitalization and restoration projects. She was also formerly the Director of Market Street Restoration Agency. She previously worked on the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in NYC & Boston’s Trinity Church. She is a frequent lecturer across NYS on revitalizing historic buildings, and a (former) longtime member of NYS’s Board for Historic Preservation. Her firm is currently writing the Historic Structure Report for Quarry Farm.

Wednesday, May 29 in the Barn at Quarry Farm ***Two Events***

5:30 p.m. Theatrical Reading of Waiting For Susy

A one-act play by Bruce Michelson, University of Illinois

Waiting for Susy is a one-act comedy about a famous, momentous, historic encounter that never took place. The setting is the great square in front of Rouen Cathedral in France; the time is October of 1894. Sam Clemens and his daughter Susy, living with the rest of the family in nearby Étretat, have come to town shopping for night-gowns and cigars. With brushes and an easel, and parked comfortably on a stool in this plaza, a strange, round, bearded French gentleman is dabbing at a couple of his paintings. What happens next is entirely made up, and you can safely believe every word of it. (“Susy Clemens” photo courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum)

7:00 p.m. “Mark Twain’s Homes and the Public Private Life”

Bruce Michelson, University of Illinois

When Sam Clemens was still young, a technological revolution in publishing — including breakthroughs in printing of pictures — provided new ways to fuel and gratify an unprecedented curiosity about the private lives of famous writers, and doing so became a lucrative sport. Where they were born and where they resided; the byways they wandered for epiphanies or Deep Thoughts; where their spouses or their Lost Loves grew up or passed away – all of this and more became fair game for mass-market words and pictures. Over the course of Mark Twain’s life we can trace this cultural transformation, and see how Quarry Farm, the Hartford mansion, and other residences here and abroad figured in a long campaign by Sam and his family to live in this new limelight, and also to evade it. The Clemenses performed a “private” family life in some places, and tried to sustain the real thing in others — in an era before television, social media, paparazzi, data mining, and all the rest of it brought American personal privacy to an end.

The Clemens Family and Flash in Hartford
Photo courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum

Bruce Michelson is the author of Mark Twain on the Loose and Printer’s Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution, as well as many articles and book chapters about Mark Twain and other writers. He is Professor Emeritus of American Literature at the University of Illinois, and a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America and The American Humor Studies Association. A Contributing Editor at Studies in American Humor, he is also a Fulbright Ambassador, having received two fellowships from the Fulbright Program. His most recent work includes a translation of George Clemenceau’s writings on Claude Monet and the fine arts, and a one-act comedy about Sam Clemens, his daughter Susy, and a Mysterious Stranger in France

Relive Twain’s Summer of 1884 with the Final Lecture of the “Trouble Begins” 2018 Season

The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, concludes Wednesday, November 7 when presenter John Bird takes the audience through Twain’s summer of 1884 at Quarry Farm.  The final fall lecture begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Barn at Quarry Farm.  The lecture is free and open to the public.

 

Mark Twain working in the Study, circa 1880’s.

Bird, emeritus professor of English at Winthrop University, will present “‘At the Farm’: Reliving Mark Twain’s 1884 Summer at Quarry Farm.”  As he did for many summers, Mark Twain packed up his family (including dogs and cats, and in this case, a bicycle) and left Hartford for an extended stay at Elmira’s Quarry Farm. Part of his current work-in-progress, a micro-biography of Twain in the year 1884, Bird’s presentation will let audiences relive Twain and his family’s experience that summer. Even though Twain wrote his friend Joe Twichell near the end of the stay that he had not accomplished anything of value during the summer, he actually had an interesting and productive summer: he read a proof of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and made some important revisions; he began a sequel even before he published his novel, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn Among the Indians; he became fully engaged in national politics during the presidential campaign; and he sat for the bust Karl Gerhardt made (twice) at Quarry Farm for the frontispiece of Huck Finn. Just as importantly, he engaged with his family, writing a short but charming personal memoir, “At the Farm,” with humorous and heartwarming anecdotes about his daughters. Living with Mark Twain day-by-day for this summer brings him and his family back to life and gives the audience a window into life at Quarry Farm, a place central to his work and his life.

 

Bird is the author of Mark Twain and Metaphor, as well as a number of articles on Mark Twain. He is a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America.

 

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.

Author of Award-Winning Novel “Flood” Continues the Fall Trouble Begins Series

The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, October 24 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“Writing from Roots in ‘America’s Hometown’: Flood, a Novel” by Melissa Scholes Young, American University

Literature and life often claim you can’t go home again, but what happens if you have to? In this book talk and author reading, Melissa Scholes Young will chronicle how Mark Twain’s own exodus from Hannibal parallels Laura Brooks’, the protagonist of her debut novel, Flood, who like the Mississippi River, once ran in the wrong direction in order to recalibrate. She’ll share her historical research and creative writing process as well as explore whyTwain’s origin in rural America is more relevant than ever.

“Filled with pithy dialogue and cultural references, Scholes Young’s writing ties Laura’s journey of self-discovery squarely to Hannibal and its famous young troublemakers. As Laura reckons with her past, Scholes Young reckons with Twain’s influence on the region. This debut is a wonderful story of home, hope, and the ties that bind us to family.” – Publishers Weekly

Melissa Scholes Young is an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C. and a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, and Poets & Writers. She’s a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and Editor of the anthology Grace in Darkness. Her debut novel, Flood, set in Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown she shares with Mark Twain, was the winner in Literary Fiction for the 2017 Best Book Award.

Here is Kevin Mac Donnell’s review of Flood: A Novel from the Mark Twain Forum Reviews.

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.

Lecture focusing on Twain’s friend from New Orleans starts the Fall 2018 Trouble Begins Series

The fall portion of the 2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, begins Wednesday, October 10 in the Barn at Quarry Farm.  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

Portrait of Grace King

The first lecture “Getting to Know Mark Twain through the Eyes of Grace King, a Southern Woman of Letters” will be presented by Miki Pfeffer, from Nicholls State University. New Orleans writer, Grace King, enjoyed a two-decade friendship with Sam and Livy Clemens and their daughters, Susy, Clara, and Jean. King visited the family in Hartford in 1887 and 1888 and in Florence in 1892. She wrote to her family about the Twain homes, meals, dress, and habits. From New Orleans, she exchanged letters with each Clemens, especially Livy, with whom she became a confidante. As each family member died, she kept in touch with the living, right through Clara’s brief messages around 1918. Miki Pfeffer will read from some of King’s captivating letters that offer a fresh view of the Clemenses and of Mark Twain as loving homebody, father, and generous friend to this ambitious southern woman.

Miki Pfeffer holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature and a Ph.D. in Urban History from the University of New Orleans. She is a visiting scholar at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. Louisiana. Her book, Southern Ladies and Suffragists: Julia Ward Howe and Women’s Rights at the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair, was awarded the 2015 Eudora Welty Prize for scholarship in Women’s Studies and Southern Studies from the Mississippi University for Women.Her current mission is to see Grace King’s letters published and appreciated, and she offers the collection of the family of Twain in a book to be published in 2019.

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.

CMTS’ Fall 2018 Trouble Begins Lectures Series Set

The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies features four lectures, with the first event set for Wednesday, October 10 in The Barn at Quarry Farm.  All four lectures begin at 7:00 p.m., and are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, October 10 in The Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“Getting to Know Mark Twain through the Eyes of Grace King, a Southern Woman of Letters” Miki Pfeffer, Nicholls State University

Grace King

New Orleans writer, Grace King, enjoyed a two-decade friendship with Sam and Livy Clemens and their daughters, Susy, Clara, and Jean. King visited the family in Hartford in 1887 and 1888 and in Florence in 1892. She wrote to her family about the Twain homes, meals, dress, and habits. From New Orleans, she exchanged letters with each Clemens, especially Livy, with whom she became a confidante. As each family member died, she kept in touch with the living, right through Clara’s brief messages around 1918. Miki Pfeffer will read from some of King’s captivating letters that offer a fresh view of the Clemenses and of Mark Twain as loving homebody, father, and generous friend to this ambitious southern woman.

Miki Pfeffer holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature and a Ph.D. in Urban History from the University of New Orleans. She is a visiting scholar at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. Louisiana. Her book, Southern Ladies and Suffragists: Julia Ward Howe and Women’s Rights at the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair, was awarded the 2015 Eudora Welty Prize for scholarship in Women’s Studies and Southern Studies from the Mississippi University for Women.Her current mission is to see Grace King’s letters published and appreciated, and she offers the collection of the family of Twain in a book to be published in 2019.

 

 

Wednesday, October 17 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus 7p.m.

“Mark Twain, TV Star” David Bianculli, Rowan University and NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Woody Harrelson as Mark Twain

The real Mark Twain, Samuel L. Clemens, appeared in only one film in his lifetime, shortly before his death: a short silent movie of him walking around his Stormfield home, photographed by Thomas Edison’s Edison film company in 1909. But since then, Mark Twain has been on television dozens of times – immortalized, and impersonated, by a frankly startling array of actors on the small screen. The
best of them, Hal Holbrook in his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight!, you know, and should. But the rest of them? Other actors portraying Mark Twain, in various programs over the 70-year-history of television, have ranged from Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby to Woody Harrelson and William Shatner. The character and image of Mark Twain have been kept alive by shows ranging from Bonanza and The Rifleman to Touched by an Angel and Star Trek: The Next Generation. David Bianculli will discuss and show clips from all these and more.

David Bianculli has been the TV critic for National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where he also appears as occasional guest host, since 1987. Beginning in 1975, he’s worked as a TV critic for newspapers in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, most recently for the New York Daily News from 1993-2007. Currently, he is a full-time professor of TV and film history at Rowan University, and editor of the website TV Worth Watching (www.tvworthwatching.com) which he launched in 2007. Bianculli has written four books – The Platinum Age of Television: From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘The Walking Dead,’ How TV Became Terrific; Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’; Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously; and Dictionary of Teleliteracy – and has written chapters for and co-edited, with Douglas Howard, Television Finales: From ‘Howdy Doody’ to ‘Girls,’ to be published by Syracuse University Press in November. Bianculli has a B. S. in Journalism and an M. A. in Journalism and Communications, both from the University of Florida.

 

Wednesday, October 24 in the Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“Writing from Roots in ‘America’s Hometown’: Flood, a Novel” Melissa Scholes Young, American University

Literature and life often claim you can’t go home again, but what happens if you have to? In this book talk and author reading, Melissa Scholes Young will chronicle how Mark Twain’s own exodus from Hannibal parallels Laura Brooks’, the protagonist of her debut novel, Flood, who like the Mississippi River, once ran in the wrong direction in order to recalibrate. She’ll share her historical research and creative writing process as well as explore whyTwain’s origin in rural America is more relevant than ever.

“Filled with pithy dialogue and cultural references, Scholes Young’s writing ties Laura’s journey of self-discovery squarely to Hannibal and its famous young troublemakers. As Laura reckons with her past, Scholes Young reckons with Twain’s influence on the region. This debut is a wonderful story of home, hope, and the ties that bind us to family.” – Publishers Weekly

Melissa Scholes Young is an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C. and a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, and Poets & Writers. She’s a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and Editor of the anthology Grace in Darkness. Her debut novel, Flood, set in Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown she shares with Mark Twain, was the winner in Literary Fiction for the 2017 Best Book Award.

 

Wednesday, November 7 in the Barn at Quarry Farm

“‘At the Farm’: Reliving Mark Twain’s 1884 Summer at Quarry Farm” John Bird, Winthrop University

Quarry Farm in the 1880s

As he did for many summers, Mark Twain packed up his family (including dogs and cats, and in this case, a bicycle) and left Hartford for an extended stay at Elmira’s Quarry Farm. Part of my current work-in-progress, a micro-biography of Twain in the year 1884, my presentation will let audiences relive his and his family’s experience that summer. Even though Twain wrote his friend Joe Twichell near the end of the stay that he had not accomplished anything of value during the summer, he actually had an interesting and productive summer: he read proof of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and made some important revisions; he began a sequel even before he published his novel, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn Among the Indians; he became fully engaged in national politics during the presidential campaign; and he sat for the bust Karl Gerhardt made (twice) at Quarry Farm for the frontispiece of Huck Finn. Just as importantly, he engaged with his family, writing a short but charming personal memoir, “At the Farm,” with humorous and heartwarming anecdotes about his daughters. Living with Mark Twain day-by-day for this summer brings him and his family back to life and gives us a window into life at Quarry Farm, a place central to his work and his life.

John Bird is Emeritus Professor of English at Winthrop University. He is the author of Mark Twain and Metaphor, as well as a number of articles on Mark Twain. He is a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America.

 

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.

19th Century Decorative Arts Scholar Discusses the Jervis Langdon Mansion at Upcoming Trouble Begins Lecture

Period photograph of a painted portrait of Jervis Langdon Senior of Elmira New York, father of Olivia Langdon Clemens and father-in-law to Samuel Clemens.

On Wednesday, May 9 in The Barn at Quarry Farm at 7:00 p.m, Walter G. Ritchie, Jr. will present a lecture entitled, “High Style in Mid-Nineteenth Century Elmira: The Architecture & Interiors of the Jervis Langdon Mansion”

By the 1860s, Jervis Langdon, Mark Twain’s father-in-law, was ready to create a home that announced his status as one of Elmira’s most successful and influential businessmen. After purchasing a house built in the 1850s, he immediately arranged to have it enlarged and remodeled in the fashionable Italianate style. The result was an imposing three-story brownstone mansion that was counted among the largest and most elegant residences in the city. Langdon then commissioned Pottier & Stymus, one of the leading cabinetmaking and decorating firms in New York City, to decorate and furnish a number of the principal rooms on the first floor of the house. After her husband’s death in 1870, Olivia Lewis Langdon continued to patronize the firm, purchasing bedroom suites and other furniture. This lecture will explore the architecture, interiors, and furnishings of the Langdon mansion, sadly destroyed in the 1930s, but well documented by period photographs showing both the exterior and interior. Surviving pieces of furniture made by Pottier & Stymus, now preserved in various museum and university collections, will be discussed to illustrate how the Langdons, through the guidance of the firm, demonstrated their good taste and familiarity with the latest modes in household decoration and furnishing.

Walter G. Ritchie, Jr. is an independent decorative arts scholar and architectural historian specializing in nineteenth-century American architecture, interiors, and furniture. He has written, lectured, and taught courses on a variety of decorative arts subjects, in addition to having served as director and curator of a number of historic house museums. He is currently researching and writing a book on the history, furniture, and interior decoration of Pottier & Stymus.

For a PDF copy of the Spring 2018 Trouble Begins Lecture Schedule, click here. Visit the “Trouble Begins” Archives for a downloadable recording of all the 2018 Spring Trouble Begins Lectures and other past talks.  You can also see past Trouble Begins programs and our quadrennial conference and symposia programs.

CMTS announces the Spring 2018 “Trouble Begins” Lineup

The Spring 2018 Trouble Begins” Lecture Series

Previous “Trouble Begins” lectures can be found and downloaded in the “Trouble Begins Archives” or by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 21 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus 7 p.m.

“Mark Twain: Travelin’ Man”  Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, media critic, and New York Times best selling author

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 his lifelong appetite for exploration (“move–move–Move!”, he 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, I will examine this divine compulsion that hastened America’s literary Declaration of Independence.

Ron Powers is a Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy Award-winning writer and critic.  He 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.  It 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.

Wednesday, May 9 in The Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“High Style in Mid-Nineteenth Century Elmira: The Architecture and Interiors of the Jervis Langdon Mansion” Walter G. Ritchie, Jr., Independent Scholar

Jervis Langdon

By the 1860s, Jervis Langdon, Mark Twain’s father-in-law, was ready to create a home that announced his status as one of Elmira’s most successful and influential businessmen.  After purchasing a house built in the 1850s, he immediately arranged to have it enlarged and remodeled in the fashionable Italianate style. The result was an imposing three-story brownstone mansion that was counted among the largest and most elegant residences in the city.  Langdon then commissioned Pottier & Stymus, one of the leading cabinetmaking and decorating firms in New York City, to decorate and furnish a number of the principal rooms on the first floor of the house.  After her husband’s death in 1870, Olivia Lewis Langdon continued to patronize the firm, purchasing bedroom suites and other furniture.  This lecture will explore the architecture, interiors, and furnishings of the Langdon mansion, sadly destroyed in the 1930s, but well documented by period photographs showing both the exterior and interior.  Surviving pieces of furniture made by Pottier & Stymus, now preserved in various museum and university collections, will be discussed to illustrate how the Langdons, through the guidance of the firm, demonstrated their good taste and familiarity with the latest modes in household decoration and furnishing.

Walter G. Ritchie, Jr. is an independent decorative arts scholar and architectural historian specializing in nineteenth-century American architecture, interiors, and furniture.  He has written, lectured, and taught courses on a variety of decorative arts subjects, in addition to having served as director and curator of a number of historic house museums.  He is currently researching and writing a book on the history, furniture, and interior decoration of Pottier & Stymus.

Wednesday, May 16 in The Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“Raising the Bar: Satirizing Law in Puddn’head Wilson and The Sellout” Rebecca Nisetich, University of Southern Maine

From the Harper & Brothers edition (1889) of Puddn’Head Wilson

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.

Rebecca 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 Review, Studies in American Naturalism, and elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 23 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus 7 p.m.

“An American Cannibal at Home: Comic Diplomacy in Mark Twain’s Hawai’i” Todd Nathan Thompson, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Image from Chapter 73 of the first edition (1872) of Roughing It

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.

Todd Nathan Thompson is 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 Editing, Early American Literature, ESQ, Nineteenth-Century Prose, Journal of American Culture, Studies in American Humor, Teaching American Literature, the 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.

Wednesday, May 30 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus 7 p.m.

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

“’My penchant for silence’: Mark Twain’s Rhetorical Art of the Unspoken” 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” (9).  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 (Scarecrow, 2013). 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.

For a PDF copy of the Spring 2018 “Trouble Begins” flyer, click here.

About The Trouble Begins at Eight Lecture Series

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight. 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.

The lectures are now held annually in the fall and spring of each year. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the Barn at Quarry Farm or in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus in Elmira, NY. Each lecture is digitally recorded after the event and can be downloaded.  This ever-growing digital archive can be found in the “Trouble Begins Archives” or by clicking here.

Help CMTS on “Giving Tuesday”

If you wish to donate, click the “Donate” button on the upper right corner of the main page.

Dear Friends,

Thanks to your past support of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, we’ve been able to achieve important goals for the Mark Twain Studies academic community on an international and local level.

Please know that none of these achievements would have been possible without the support of our “Dear Friends,” members just like you.

That’s why we are asking you to give to our year-end appeal – and we’re counting on you to help us serve the Twain community even more in the year to come. Through your support of the year-end appeal you strengthen CMTS’ programs and objectives.

Here is a list of just some of the things we are working on:

Supporting established and emerging scholars with the Quarry Farm Fellowships

CMTS offers nine Quarry Farm Fellowships every year to any scholar working in the field of Mark Twain Studies at any career stage, giving Fellows the opportunity to work on academic or creative projects at Quarry Farm.  The Fellowships foster and support scholarship and creative works related to Mark Twain, including, but not limited to, his literature, life, family, associations, influences, reception, and significance.  The fellowship selection process aims to assist scholars and artists in producing work of highest distinction and cultivate a diverse community of scholars across backgrounds, specializations, and ranks.

Continuing the “Trouble Begins” and “Park Church” Lecture Series

The CMTS lecture series, which feature 10-12 speakers every year, is unlike anything else, both in its consistent focus on a single author, and the depth of knowledge and variety of expertise the lecturers bring to this topic.  In many cases lecturers in these two series use the venue to present cutting-edge works-in-progress or to explore idiosyncratic ideas which may not otherwise find a venue.  All of these lectures are free and open to the public.  Furthermore, CMTS is able to expand access to them by making them available as recordings for download or streaming. CMTS is in the process of digitizing an archive of recordings that dates back more than three decades.  We encourage you to explore this expanding archive at MarkTwainStudies.org

Creating online resources for teachers and the Twain community

Foremost among these plans is a digital edition of David Fears’ massive multi-volume Mark Twain Day By Day.  This enormously ambitious chronology of Samuel Clemens’s 75 years was published from 2008 to 2014, and has since become an invaluable reference for Twain scholars.  However, it has a limited run and the vastness of the undertaking made it prohibitively expensive for individuals, so very few copies exist outside of large college libraries.  Mr. Fears has given permission to CMTS to build a fully searchable, linkable, metadata-rich, updated electronic version.  We are both grateful and excited to provide this one-of-a kind tool for scholars and students alike, and expect to launch a Beta version of at least one volume in 2018.  Furthermore, CMTS is in the process of creating a number of online resources, specifically aimed at enhancing the education of Mark Twain and his literature in the classroom.  Not only is there a virtual tour of Quarry Farm, but soon there will be an interactive map of Mark Twain’s Elmira, an interactive map of Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery, the final resting place of the Clemens and Langdons, a compilation of Twain-specific websites, and a collection of lesson plans, most specifically oriented to meet contemporary classroom standards.

Preserving Quarry Farm and the Mark Twain Study

Due to the historic importance of Quarry Farm and the Mark Twain Study as National Historic Landmarks, to take a proactive approach to their preservation and maintenance. CMTS is currently in the process of acquiring historical preservation reports for Quarry Farm and the Mark Twain.  These reports will serve as long-range preservation and maintenance plans and will allow CMTS to apply for large scale historic preservation grants.  Once funding for the reports are secured, CMTS will begin the process of long-range, large-scale preservation plans at Quarry Farm including a modern humidity/temperature control system, a non-water fire suppression system, and updated plumbing.

As you can see, our work is more important now than ever.

For more than 30 years, CMTS has worked to promote and sustain Mark Twain Studies.  That work has paid off.  CMTS now is able to provide services to a number of different constituents, including university academics, independent scholars, Twain enthusiasts, teachers, and students.  As we all now live through this new Gilded Age (a term aptly coined by Twain himself), the need for funding from individuals is vital.

I hope that you will consider a gift today on “Giving Tuesday” or at year-end to sustain our good works for the Twain community.

With December 31 approaching, CMTS needs your generous financial support to keep our programs going.  Together we have accomplished so much – but there is still more work to do!

Take care,

Joe Lemak, Director

If you wish to donate, click the “Donate” button on the upper right corner of the main page.

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.

Fall Trouble Begins Lectures Continue With Lecture Focusing on “Tom Sawyer Abroad”

The fall portion of the 2017-2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, October 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the Barn at Quarry Farm, with a lecture that explores the “boy-inventor publishing explosion” of the late 1800s.

The lecture, “Mark Twain and the Inventor Fiction Boom: Technology Meets American Conceit, 1876-1910” will be presented by Nathaniel Williams, from the University of California, Davis.

In Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894), Mark Twain sends his most famous characters – Tom, Huck, and Jim – on an airship voyage across the Atlantic into Africa. By the time Twain wrote that novel, nearly 100 similar stories about young Americans in imaginary aircraft and other vehicles had appeared in magazines and serials. They featured boy inventors using their ingenuity and technology to take over remote locales, not unlike Twain’s Hank Morgan in A Connecticut Yankee (1889). By looking at Twain’s work in the context of the boy-inventor publishing explosion, we find new insights into the early stirrings of his anti-imperialist fervor, his complex views on race, and his wilting faith in technology. Surprisingly, some now-obscure dime novelists wrestled with those same concepts before Twain (and helped birth modern “steampunk” along the way). This presentation covers some of their works along with Twain’s unique contributions to the genre.

Williams is a lecturer for the University Writing Program at the University of California, Davis. His book on Twain and 19th-century technocratic adventure fiction is forthcoming from University of Alabama Press. He has recently written chapters for The Centrality of Crime Fiction in American Literary Culture and the upcoming Cambridge History of Science Fiction. His essays have appeared in American LiteratureUtopian Studies, and elsewhere. He serves on the advisory board of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction housed at his alma mater, The University of Kansas.

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