The Trouble Begins Lecture Series


Recent Past 2017 Lectures

Thursday, July 13th at the Chemung Valley History Museum

“Mark Twain and Road Serling: Moralists in Disguise”  Mark Dawidziak, Independent Scholar

This lecture explores the many intriguing personal and professional parallels between Twain and Rod Serling, two authors with profound connections to upstate New York. Both writers would retreat to upstate New York each summer with their families – Twain to Quarry Farm in Elmira, Serling to a cabin on Cayuga Lake – but that’s just one of the many fascinating points of comparison linking these two iconic American writers.

Mark Dawidziak is a television critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, as well as an acclaimed author, playwright, director, and actor who often portrays Twain in performances. A recognized Twain scholar, he has edited several books on the author, including Mark My Words: Mark Twain on Writing (1996), Horton Foote’s The Shape of the River: The Lost Teleplay About Mark Twain (2003), Mark Twain in Ohio(2015), Mark Twain’s Guide to Diet, Exercise, Beauty, Fashion, Investment, Romance, Health and Happiness (2015), and Mark Twain for Cat Lovers: True and Imaginary Adventures with Feline Friends (2016).

To listen to the lecture, click here.

Wednesday, June 14th at the Park Church 7:00 p.m.
“Twain and the Hawaiian Nation”  Molly Ball, Eureka College

Mark Twain lived in an age of high nationalism. Twain’s lifetime (1835 to 1910) spanned decades in which many new nations emerged and competed for cultural prestige and political prominence. The pervasive nationalism of the nineteenth century raises questions about what exactly constitutes nationhood – what did the term mean in this period, and what allows a political entity to claim the status of nation? As a world traveler and keen social observer, Twain was poised to offer insight into such questions. This lecture will address Twain’s approach to nationhood in work that comes out of his 1866 trip to the Hawaiian Kingdom. In letters written for a Sacramento newspaper, Twain reflects on Hawaiian society in a moment in which Native Hawaiians sought to make their Kingdom legible to foreigners as a sovereign nation. By casting themselves as national, self-governing subjects, Native Hawaiians sought to ward off other nations’ attempts to make the Islands into an imperial holding. As Twain depicts Hawaiian scenes and settings, he troubles nationalist thought (dominant in the West in this period) which holds that national identity resides in a culturally homogenous citizenry.

Molly Ball is an Assistant Professor of English at Eureka College. She received her PhD in 2016 from the University of California at Davis, and she is currently at work on a book manuscript, tentatively titled, “Writing Out of Time: Temporal Vulnerability in Nineteenth-Century Narrative,” that explores narrative structure in Anglophone literature. She is particularly interested in questions about national identity and travel, and these questions draw her to Mark Twain – one of the century’s most well-traveled writers. She recently published an essay on Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in ESQ: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture, and her reviews have appeared in Early American Literature and GLQ.

To listen to the lecture, click here.

 

Wednesday, June 14th at the Park Church 7:00 p.m.

“Conjuring the Superstitions of a Nation: Magic, Memory and Huckleberry Finn”
Sarah Ingle, University of Virginia

Illustration from the First Edition of Huck Finn by Edward Windsor Kemble

In Following the Equator (1897), Mark Twain wrote, “Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.” Yet, despite this indication that Twain viewed superstition as a supremely powerful social force, scholars have had surprisingly little to say about the role of superstition in Twain’s most famous novel. From Jim’s fortune-telling hair ball to Tom Sawyer’s “witch pie,” magic and folklore are much more than mere manifestations of “local color” and minstrel show humor in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Conjuring is Twain’s metaphor for the twin powers of memory and prediction that are at the heart of the novel’s critique of post-Reconstruction America. In Huckleberry Finn, conjure becomes a metaphor for two competing ways of reading: Jim’s fortune-telling and Huck’s transformative retrospection.

Sarah Ingle is an English lecturer at the University of Virginia, where she received her PhD in English literature in 2014, specializing in 19th-century American literature and African American literature. She has visited Elmira several times as a Quarry Farm Research Fellow and as a presenter at several conferences. She has also taught a class on “Huck Finn and Cultural Conflict” and has delivered conference papers and published articles about the works of Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Pauline Hopkins, and others. This talk is adapted from a chapter of her book manuscript, Conjured Memories: Race, Place, and Cultural Memory in the American Conjure Tale, which she hopes to publish.

To listen to the lecture, click here.

 

Wednesday, June 28th at the Park Church 7:00 p.m.
“Artemus Ward: The Man Who Made Lincoln Laugh” John Pascal, Seton Hall Prep School

Portrait of Artemus Ward

It is generally accepted that during his lifetime, Mark Twain was considered the preeminent American master storyteller and lecturer of humor. The tsunami that is Twain’s literary achievement can easily overwhelm the earlier vast movement of the American literary scene that led to its creation. The “underwater earthquake” of this movement is Charles Farrar Browne, but his more famous pseudonym is Artemus Ward. While there were earlier, as well as contemporary, humorous writers, Artemus Ward was regarded by William Dean Howells as “the humorist who first gave the world a taste of the humor that characterizes the whole American people.” Indeed, in 1862, President Lincoln laughed heartily while he read to his Cabinet passages from Ward’s first book. Ward’s uniqueness in telling a story from the lecture platform enthralled thousands throughout the United States and in Canada; he was also “the first deadpan comedian to take England by storm.” Despite these views, today Ward’s literary reputation is largely forgotten along with his distinctive contribution to the tradition of American humor. Thus he certainly is well deserving of study. This lecture will analyze the construction of his literary reputation by showing that what made Ward so popular in his time was the fact that his literary humor was rhetorically gentle. Ward parlayed the success of his nationally published letters into a commercially successful career as the first comedic lecturer to tour the nation. His platform appearances helped Twain become more professionally aware of humor’s literary and commercial value.

John Pascal is in his sixteenth year teaching 9th and 11th grade English at Seton Hall Preparatory School in New Jersey. He is in his second year teaching a course he developed called “Writings of Mark Twain.” He is a contributing author to Mark Twain and Youth: Studies in His Life and Writings (2016); he is the author of Artemus Ward: The Gentle Humorist (2008); has presented papers on Mark Twain and Artemus Ward at Mark Twain Conferences in Elmira and Hannibal; and has reviewed books for the Mark Twain Forum. He holds a B.A. Cum Laude in English from Villanova University, an M.B.A. from Seton Hall University, and an M.A. in English from Montclair State University.

To listen to the lecture, click here.

 

Wednesday, April 26 in Cowles Hall at Elmira College 7 p.m.
“These Hideous Times:” Mark Twain’s Bankruptcy and the Panic of 1893”
Joseph Csicsila,  Eastern Michigan University


An old standby of Twain biography is that Mark Twain was a bad businessman, plain and simple.
Critics routinely cast him as a reckless speculator, a foolish investor, a failed entrepreneur as they advance the notion that Twain was hopelessly irresponsible with his wealth, making poor financial decisions one after another throughout much of his adult life, and that this led inevitably to his well-publicized and personally humiliating bankruptcy in April 1894. Twain studies, however, has yet to consider in any detailed fashion the context of the Panic of 1893 and the considerable role that it played in Twain’s financial ruin. The country’s first major industrial collapse, what many historians regard as America’s first full-scale economic depression, the Panic of 1893 took down thousands of businesses and ruined millions of Americans in truly historic fashion. As it turns out, Mark Twain’s bankruptcy may have had less to do with his financial decision-making than the times in which those decisions were made.
Joseph Csicsila is Professor of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University. His writings include Canons by Consensus: Critical Trends and American Literature Anthologies (2004); Centenary Reflections on Mark Twain’s No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger (2009), co-edited with Chad Rohman; and Heretical Fictions: Religion in the Literature of Mark Twain (2010), co-authored with Lawrence Berkove. Csicsila is also editor of the Modern Library edition of Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age (2005) and the Broadview Press teaching volume of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Forthcoming 2017). He is currently at work on a full-scale study of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which will appear in 2018.

To listen to the lecture, click here.

 

Wednesday, May 3 in The Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“Roughing It: Twain’s Take on Brigham Young, Polygamy, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre”
Barbara Jones Brown,  Independent Scholar

In 1861, young Samuel Clemens gave up his job as a Mississippi riverboat pilot and departed St. Louis to venture west. He traveled with his older brother, Orion, the new secretary of the recently created Nevada Territory. Samuel sought his fortune in the West through mining, but discovered his future instead through his writing, under the pen name Mark Twain. In his 1871, travel narrative Roughing It, Twain famously wrote of his passing through Utah, including his observations of Brigham Young, Mormon polygamy, and the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre in southern Utah. This presentation looks at the circumstances that led to Twain’s writing Roughing It at Quarry Farm and compares his humorous reminiscences with what actually happened on his 1861 journey, based on historical sources.

Barbara Jones Brown is an independent historian of the American West. She is currently at work on a volume about the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which Mormon militiamen slaughtered a California-bound wagon train of Arkansas emigrants in southern Utah. This forthcoming volume, published by Oxford University Press, will include research Brown conducted, as a Quarry Farm Fellow, on Twain’s 1861 visit to Utah and his observations on the massacre. Brown holds an M.A. in American History from the University of Utah. She lives in Park City, Utah.

Wednesday, May 17 in the Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“Mark Twain, Unchaining the American Eagle”
David E.E. Sloane, New Haven University

Twain’s predecessor Artemus Ward claimed he could live in Canada in the capacity of a Duke, if a vacancy occurred, but Mark Twain unchained Ward’s eagle in the four main components of his humor which fulfilled Ward’s comic promise. Relying on entrepreneurialism, egalitarianism, egregiousness, and empathy, Twain stated the American vision through humor as no other American has before or since. Jokes from the humor of the Old Northeast and Twain’s own writings demonstrate his vision and how he presented it to the world.

David E.E. Sloane is Professor of English at the University of New Haven. He earned his Ph.D. degree from Duke University in 1970 and has been incorrigible ever since. His books include Mark Twain As A Literary Comedian; The Literary Humor of The Urban Northeast, 1830-1890; American Humor Magazines and Comic Periodicals; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: American Comic Vision; and Mark Twain’s Humor: Critical Essays, among other works. He was the first Henry Nash Smith Fellow named by the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College in 1987 or thereabouts.

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

“The Mechanical Woman in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”
Hoi Na Kung, Indiana University

Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court abounds with comical descriptions that liken its central female character, Sandy, to an industrial machine with infinite labor power. This lecture will suggest that this novel’s peculiar automatization of Sandy gestures towards a 19th century cultural ambivalence about technology. On one hand, technology promised a “rational” order of life with an emphasis on the maximization of productivity and profit. On the other hand, technology threatened a disturbance of social order: mechanization of the workplace allowed women to leave the household for the workplace en masse, generating anxiety about women exchanging biological reproduction for industrial reproduction of commodities. Departing from much of the literary criticism that interprets Twain’s technologized modernity as a tragedy, this lecture will argue that Twain’s novel employs the figure of the mechanical woman in order to foreground both the sense of increased freedom and unfreedom for both men and women opened up by a technologized modernity.

Hoi Na Kung is currently a third-year doctorate student in the English department at Indiana University, where she specializes in 19th and 20th century American literature with an emphasis on critical race studies and gender studies. She is currently working on a project exploring representations of sensory experiences in African American and Asian American literature written in the age of globalization.

To listen to the lecture, click here.

The Spring 2017 “Trouble Begins” Lecture Series is sponsored by the Michael J. Kiskis Memorial Fund. The sole purpose of this fund is to support scholars and scholarship at Quarry Farm. If you are interested in contributing to this fund, please contact Dr. Joseph Lemak at jlemak@elmira.edu.

The “Trouble Begins” Lecture Series is also made possible by the support of the Mark Twain Foundation and the Friends of the Center.

ABOUT THE “TROUBLE BEGINS” SERIES

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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. 

Quarry Farm Barn

The barn at Quarry Farm has been repurposed and modified as lecture venue.

QFBarn
The entrance to the barn at Quarry Farm

Directions to Quarry Farm for local attendees:
From Elmira College, head east on Washington across the Clemens Center Parkway to Sullivan Street. Turn right on Sullivan. Turn left on East Avenue. Turn left on Crane Road. Quarry Farm will appear on your left. Please park on the grassy area behind the Barn. Quarry Farm is a fragile, natural environment. Please exercise care.

If using a GPS, enter: 131 Crane Road, Elmira, NY 14901.

Peterson Chapel in Historic Cowles Hall

Lectures may also be held in Peterson Chapel in Elmira College’s Cowles Hall. The chapel features a series of stained glass windows depicted the history and traditions of the college, including one of Twain in front of his study and one of his wife, Elmira College alumnus Olivia Clemens, on front of the porch at Quarry Farm. There is also a Mark Twain Exhibit in Cowles Hall.

Directions to Peterson Chapel for local attendees:
The address of Elmira College is 1 Park Place, Elmira, NY 14901. Cowles Hall is on the east side of Park Place, behind the Fasset Commons Art building on Washington Avenue. In front of Cowles Hall is a small man-made pond known as “The Puddle” and the Mark Twain Study. Parking may be found off of North Main Street, at the north east corner of campus.