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.


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.


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