By any measure, this was the most active year yet at MarkTwainStudies.org, as well as an extremely productive year for the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies. In January, we relaunched the site with a full redesign from Paul Stonier and two significant new archives, the Beta version of David Fears’s Mark Twain Day By Day and David Bianculli’s Mark Twain: Television Star. These were not the only fresh resources for scholars and Twainiacs we added in 2019. In April, CMTS archivist Nathanial Ball released a digital archive of our collection of Twain’s marginalia. In June we launched an interactive map of Elmira from 1901, created by Director Joe Lemak and David Coleman’s SmallTown360. And, in September, resident scholar Matt Seybold contextualized the rare manuscript, Drinking With Twain, which we digitized for the first time. Over the course of the year, there were also substantive updates to the existing Virtual Tours of Quarry Farm and Woodlawn Cemetery (also in collaboration with SmallTown360).
The Center For Mark Twain Studies also hosted its 6th Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium in October, organized by Ben Click, Editor of Mark Twain Annual, with a keynote address from Michael Branch (University of Nevada – Reno). The topic was “Mark Twain & Nature” and you can read all about it, as well as listen to the ten speakers who participated in the event. You can also find an extensive recap of the 2019 Summer Teachers Institute hosted at Quarry Farm, led by Jocelyn Chadwick (Harvard School of Education) and Matt Seybold (Elmira College). We also added twelve new lectures to our Trouble Begins archives from 2019 series hosted at the Chemung Valley Museum, Elmira College, Quarry Farm, and The Park Church.
In July, the staff took a road trip to Hannibal for the 2019 Clemens Conference, the last to be organized by retiring Director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, Henry Sweets. We were proud to host tributes to Henry from Cindy Lovell and other grateful Twain scholars. Finally, we produced an episode of the C19: America in the Nineteenth Century podcast, released earlier this month, and featuring performances by Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor, Hal Holbrook, and his grandson, Will Holbrook. The episode, “The Gospel of Revolt: Mark Twain in Elmira,” can be streamed or downloaded from iTunes or SoundCloud.
In the meantime, “The Study” blog at MarkTwainStudies.org published over a hundred posts from more than thirty scholars. Here are some highlights:
- On the occasion of Hal Holbrook’s 94th Birthday, Shelley Fisher Fishkin (Stanford University) produced a video tribute to the actor who played Mark Twain even longer than Samuel Clemens did.
- Elmira College students and faculty collaborated with Twain scholar and playwright Bruce Michelson (University of Illinois) on a production of Michelson’s “Waiting For Susy” at Quarry Farm.
- Matt Seybold (Elmira College) discovered a sketch with Twain’s byline, titled “The Texan Steer,” which has not previously been attributed to Twain, in newspaper archives from 1870.
- In “The Mugwump Bump,” Dwayne Eutsey reconsidered a Kate Moser article about Twain’s 1884 partisan conversion through the lens of contemporary political divisiveness.
- Barbara Schmidt marked the shuttering of Mad magazine by discussing its satiric representation of Old Crow whiskey ads featuring Twain.
- During the Summer, Dr. Seybold published the first two installments of his ongoing “Mark Twain’s Portfolio” series, the first of which was named “Best of The Week” by Politico.
- August 11th was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Twain’s first book, The Innocents Abroad. We celebrated with a series of essays by scholars interested in the legacy of Twain’s travel-writing, including Harold H. Hellwig (Idaho State University), Jeffrey Melton (University of Alabama), and Jeanne Campbell Reesman (University of Texas – San Antonio).
- Stephen Pasqualina (University of Nevada – Reno) traced Twain’s influence upon American Modernism.
- Following the death of Toni Morrison, Dr. Seybold memorialized her influence on Twain scholarship.
- In an emotional memoir, Alan Rankin discusses his decades-long relationship with the “lost diary” of Nina Gabrilowitsch, who was Twain’s granddaughter.
- Emily VanDette (SUNY-Fredonia) promotes her new edition of Elizabeth Stuart Phelp’s Trixy, which includes Twain’s “A Dog’s Tale,” by discussing the two novelists shared interest in anti-vivisection activism.
- Dr. Seybold reviewed an advance copy of the documentary, Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey, released to iTunes and Amazon last month.
Many thanks to the many Friends of the Center For Mark Twain Studies, including you, for visiting MarkTwainStudies.org, coming to CMTS lectures and performances (or giving them!), and supporting our ongoing mission. We’ve got more in store for 2020. Happy New Year!