2022 Quarry Farm Fellows

The Center for Mark Twain Studies is honored to announce the 2022 Class of Quarry Farm Fellows.

Elizabeth Cantalamessa

Sponsor: Simon Evnine, University of Miami

Elizabeth Cantalamessa is a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of Miami whose research lies at the intersection of social philosophy, philosophy of language, and philosophical methodology. Her dissertation proposes an alternative model of humor as a methodological tool with unique expressive powers that allows speakers to publicly demonstrate socially-significant values without explicit justification, which explains why humor serves as a tool for political critique. She has published in The British Journal of Aesthetics, Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, as well as the online public philosophy outlets Aeon, Psyche, and Aesthetics for Birds.

My dissertation project is largely inspired by a passage from Mark Twain’s unfinished work The Mysterious Stranger where the devil contends that the human race has only one truly effective weapon against the lies of the powerful: laughter. Though Twain often espoused a misanthropic attitude, he understood that humanity’s fundamental flaws had to be acknowledged rather than ignored, and humor allowed him to communicate ethical criticisms indirectly, without implying that he was referring to or ridiculing anyone in particular. I argue that Twain’s ironic portrayals caused his audiences to reconsider what they otherwise assumed to be natural or unproblematic and so served as a method for ethical instruction. I want to relate the claim that humor is an instructional method to Twain’s condemnation of “brickbat culture” which equates education with processes of passive memorization and encourages students to value knowledge as the feeling of security, rather than as a never-ending form of active inquiry. I think Twain can serve as a model for a more humanist and sentimentalist form of political instruction, and as a template for how we should use humor as an instrument for rehabilitating our current political challenges and divisions. Another aspect of my project will be establishing Twain as a philosopher whose methodological commitments place him in the pragmatist tradition alongside Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

I plan to use my time at Quarry Farm to delve into Twain’s archives and gain a better understanding of the historical figures that inspired him, his self-conception as a humorist, and his remarks on the limits of traditional “straight-faced” political deliberation.

Max Chapnick

Sponsor: Maurice S. Lee, Boston University

Max Laitman Chapnick is a PhD candidate in American and English literature at Boston University. He is working on a dissertation called “Wild Science: Radical Politics and Rejected Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Fiction” interested in the fields of novel studies, the history of social movements, and the history of science. He earned an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University of Wellington on a Fulbright scholarship. His essays appear in Configurations, Current Affairs, and PMLA.

At Quarry Farm, he plans to work on the section of his dissertation focusing on three late-nineteenth-century time travel narratives: Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888), Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), and H. G. Wells’s Time Machine (1895). The three authors emerge from a broad field of “scientific socialists,” yet in each narrative an anti-scientific element remains; Wells shows evolutionary theories unraveling; Bellamy’s “quack” mesmerism remains necessary for imagining communism, and Twain’s techno-state turns dramatically into a militarized wasteland, a premonition for the first World War. For Twain in particular, even as he would later express a fraught relationship to rejected knowledges like Christian Science, his relationship to science was fraught as well. These three technology-minded dys/utopic time travel narratives ask: what if the increasing consolidation of science into a disciplinary and elitist project, and its uptake as an engine of state, empire, and war, undermined science’s more populist promise? In the context of Twain’s later interest and disdain for pseudo-science as in Christian Science (1907) and his critique of imperial projects as in King Leopold’s Soliloquy (1905), I will investigate to what extent that engagement with science and empire, and the relationship between those two, began in earlier decades during the writing of Connecticut Yankee.

Cassio de Oliveira

Sponsor: John MacKay, Yale University

Cassio de Oliveira is an assistant professor of Russian in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University. His articles, primarily on Soviet-era Russian literature and film as well as in Translation Studies, have appeared or are forthcoming from Russian Literature, The Slavic and East European Journal, Canadian Slavonic Papers, Slavonica, Tolstoy Studies Journal, Studies in Slavic Cultures, KinoKultura, and other journals. He recently completed his first monograph, entitled Writing Rogues: The Soviet Picaresque and Identity Formation, 1921–1938. De Oliveira is currently conducting research for his second monograph, Mark Twain’s Mississippi Writings in the Russian Imagination, which focuses on the reception, translation, and adaptations of Mark Twain’s works in Russia. In telling the history of Twain in Russia, de Oliveira concentrates on the Soviet period, when Twain came to be seen both as a prime representative of world literature, and as a staunch critic of bourgeois society and American imperialism. De Oliveira completed his B.A. at Bard College and received his Ph.D. from Yale University. At Portland State, he teaches courses in Russian language and literature, European Studies for the general education program, as well as a seminar in Translation Studies.

In my book, entitled Mark Twain’s Mississippi Writings in the Russian Imagination, I investigate how and why Mark Twain acquired canonical status in the Soviet Union amidst debates of literary merit and the ideological import of literature. My project examines the multifaceted reception of Twain’s works as entertainment, edification, and engaged literature. I show that, from the late Tsarist period through the collapse of the Soviet Union one century later, Mark Twain’s works, especially Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, enjoyed immense popularity with Russian readers and underwent multiple adaptations to the stage and the screen. The novels became classics of children’s literature that resonated with critics and readers in their evocation of a carefree childhood (in Tom Sawyer) and exploration of a dark yet idyllic isolation from society (in Huckleberry Finn). The novels also struck a note in the early Soviet literary environment, when adventure narratives and popular genres were seen as a means to rejuvenate Russian literature along communist principles. Moreover, the Soviets read Twain’s Mississippi writings as documents of antebellum life – a combination of the intrepid and industrious spirit of the common American man, and of the social devastation inflicted by the institution of slavery. The novels thus provided fodder for ideological critiques of capitalism that drew attention to the institution of slavery and persistent radical inequality in America. Mark Twain’s Mississippi Writings in the Russian Imagination explains how Twain, seen through Soviet eyes, went from being an American humorist to a staunch critic of America; from a representative of American mores to a singer of the universal experience of childhood.

At Quarry Farm, I plan to research Twain’s connections with Russia and to start drafting Chapter One of the book, which focuses on Twain’s visit to Russia in 1867 (recounted in The Innocents Abroad) and on the Russian reception of his works before the October 1917 Revolution.

Jodi DeBruyne and Mallory Howard

Sponsor: Kerry Driscoll, The Mark Twain Papers & Project, University of California, Berkeley

Jodi DeBruyne

The Mark Twain House & Museum’s Director of Collections Jodi DeBruyne and Assistant Curator Mallory Howard share the responsibility for the care, exhibition, and interpretation of the Mark Twain House and the museum’s collection of more than 20,000 artifacts and documents. Howard has aided countless researchers, done important work herself on Twainian subjects, and has spoken on aspects of Twain’s life and work in venues ranging from scholarly conferences to Mississippi riverboats. She earned her B.A.in American History at Central Connecticut State University and was inducted into the national history honor society Phi Alpha Theta. She holds a certification from the Modern Archives Institute in Washington, D.C. DeBruyne has worked at museums across the country including the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA, the City Museum in Juneau, AK, and the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, ME. She earned her B.A. in Art History at Old Dominion University and her M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University.

Mallory Howard

Jodi DeBruyne and Mallory Howard will be conducting research and drafting exhibition text for the Mark Twain House & Museum’s upcoming 2023 exhibit on Summering with Twain. The exhibition will use the experiences of Samuel Clemens and his family to illustrate and examine the development of an iconic element of American culture, which continues to play a major role in our society today – the summer vacation. The exhibition will educate visitors through an engaging and accessible format about Mark Twain and aspects of his life, his work, and his era, while also allowing them to make connections to their lives today and causing them to reflect on the still relevant themes that will be explored – including the impact of class, gender and race on lifestyle, health, and access to leisure activities. The exhibit will explore many locations visited by Sam Clemens and his family while on their summer holidays., but a large section of the exhibit will be dedicated to the more than twenty summers they spent with Livy’s family at Quarry Farm and it is their time in Elmira that will be the focus of our fellowship.

Jennifer Hughes

Sponsor: Tracy Wuster, University of Texas, Austin

Jennifer A. Hughes is Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Department of Language, Literature, and Culture at Averett University where she teaches courses in American literature, including an honors course on American humor and satire. She served as the Secretary/Treasurer of the American Humor Studies Association from 2013-2018 and has held fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  Her essays have appeared in Studies in American Humor, Southern Frontier Humor: New Approaches, The Southern Literary Journal, The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, A Concise Companion to American Fiction 1900-1950, and African American Review.

While visiting Quarry Farm, she will be researching Mark Twain’s awareness of late nineteenth-century laws and trials concerning libel, censorship, and freedom of religion. Mark Twain weighed legal and social risks to himself and his loved ones while drafting the Mysterious Stranger manuscripts (“The Chronicle of Young Satan,” “Schoolhouse Hill,” and “No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger”).  In his notebooks, Mark Twain expresses vague concerns about publishing controversial texts at the turn of the century — “books that laugh at the whole paltry scheme” – because he was responsible for the well-being of his family. He would have been aware of international trials in which texts played a role in ruining careers and lives.  For example, Oscar Wilde was put to trial in 1895 and eventually sentenced to two years in jail for the “gross indecency” of homosexuality. The prosecution used Wilde’s writings, and his jokes, as evidence against him. In 1898, Emile Zola published “J’accuse,” knowing that he would be tried for libel in exposing the corrupt anti-Semitism of the French government in the Dreyfus affair.  This project will consider the extent to which Mark Twain felt similarly endangered, and the degree to which his concerns influenced writings that present laughter as an utterance that testifies against the absurd immorality of humanity.

William Hunt

Sponsor: Priscilla Wald, Duke University

Bill Hunt is an assistant professor at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, where he usually teaches WRT 101, WRT 102, ENG 201, ENG 231, and ENG 232. He specializes in 19th- and early-20th-century American literature, with interests in Gender and Women’s Studies, Post-/Colonialism Studies, Sentimentalism, Middle East Studies, and literatures of the U.S. Suffrage Movement. He has published articles in The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review and in an edited book collection, American and Muslim Worlds before 1900 (Eds. John Ghazvinian and Mitchell Fraas). He holds a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from Duke University.

His scholarship is often impelled by the notion that the American Suffrage Movement was essentially literary in character, as much as it was social and political. In 2017, he began a digital humanities experiment, www.100signersproject.com, a research blog that utilizes archival records to create recuperative biographies for the 100 individuals who lent their names to the Declaration of Sentiments at the Seneca Falls Convention.

My project traces the competing parochial and transnational dimensions of Mark Twain’s conversion to the cause of women’s suffrage. These varying economies of scale play out in revealing ways in his 1879 short story “The Great Revolution in Pitcairn.” To address questions surrounding the global feasibility of women’s enfranchisement, Twain turns to the Lilliputian, South Pacific island of Pitcairn, the first sovereignty on earth to grant women the right to vote, doing so in 1838.

From his arrival in 1832 until being forcibly removed in 1837, one Joshua W. Hill fashioned himself as the de facto ruler of Pitcairn Island. In “The Great Revolution in Pitcairn,” Butterworth Stavely, Twain’s literary proxy for Hill, drives his newly minted empire swiftly to the brink of ecocidal and economic collapse. In this context, suffrage appears to have been mustered into existence as an anti-colonial strategy, designed to protect the island’s population from future political usurpations. I am interested in how the narrative’s shifting attitudes toward universal franchise in “The Great Revolution in Pitcairn” speaks to related, seemingly inconsequential events that occurred in the borderlands of the Burned-over District during the same period.

Hester Kaplan

Sponsor: Larry Tye, New York Times bestselling author

Hester Kaplan is the author of two story collections, The Edge of Marriage, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Fiction, and Unravished, and the novels The Tell and Kinship Theory. Her fiction and non-fiction has been widely published and anthologized, including in The Best American Short Stories series. She is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for her current nonfiction project, How Mark Twain Helped Me Find My Father.  She is on the faculty of Lesley University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, and is a co-founder of Goat Hill Writers.

My father, Justin Kaplan, famously wrote about Mark Twain. As an orphan and an intensely private man, his own life story was a mystery to me. “The question for a good biographer,” he wrote, “is not why, but how: how it felt for the subject of the biography to live his life.”  In How Mark Twain Helped me Find My Father, I take up the question of how he became a biographer of Twain, how he spent his career uncovering the lives of others but would not reveal how he felt about his own, and how given his beginnings marked by profound loss, he found direction and meaning through writing.  In my reading of his biography of Twain for the first time, I am also discovering the sources of his creative energy, and how I’ve come to write the biography of a biographer.

When my father wrote about Twain that “the central drama of his mature literary life was his discovery of the useable past,” did he know that his own past was usable? The orphan must write his own life story and become fiction writer, protagonist, and autobiographer at the same time. In writing about my father, I am fiction writer, protagonist, and biographer, striving to tell the story of a life that is both connected to and separate from my own.  “Most biographies are begun out of enchantment or affection,” Leon Edel wrote, and mine begins with both.

Judith Yaross Lee 

Sponsor: Joseph Csicsila, Eastern Michigan University

Judith Yaross Lee is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Communication Studies at Ohio University, where she taught from 1990 to 2019.  Her six books and five dozen articles on American popular rhetorics include Twain’s Brand: Humor in Contemporary American Culture (2012), Seeing MAD: Essays on MAD Magazine’s Humor and Legacy (2020), and  “The Sociable Sam Clemens: Mark Twain Among Friends” (2018).  She chaired the 2020 Quarry Farm Symposium, “American Humor and Matters of Empire,” based on her essay of the same name in Studies in American Humor. She is currently completing a study of Clemens’s 37-year relationship with the African explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

My two-week Quarry Farm Fellowship in 2022 will support research and writing about how Mark Twain shaped the travel narratives of his visit to Australia and Tasmania—More Tramps Abroad and Following the Equator (1897)—from his experiential, textual, and ideological sources. My October-November 2017 travels in Clemens’s footsteps through the Adelaide and Glenelg areas of South Australia, Melbourne and the Central Victorian mining district, and the Tasmanian coast have suggested how Clemens’s experience on the ground fed his published narratives about British settlement and indigenous life. I will use the Quarry Farm residency to study key differences between the Clemens’s corrected typescript of the manuscript and the representation of his Australian and Tasmanian travels in both published editions, with an eye to understanding the rhetorical decisions that shaped Mark Twain’s public presentation of British colonization to his distinct audiences at home and in the empire in this important landmark in his growing anti-imperialism.

Jeanne Campbell Reesman

Sponsor: James E. Caron, University of Hawaiʽi, Mānoa

Jeanne Campbell Reesman is Professor of English and Jack and Laura Richmond Endowed Faculty Fellow in American Literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio, which she joined in 1986. She has served as Division Director, MA and PhD Directors, as Graduate Dean, and, presently, on the Executive Committee of the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Scholars. She has been awarded two Fulbrights, one in Thessaloniki and the other in Aix-en-Provence. She is the author of numerous books and essays on American writers, especially London and other Naturalists, Twain, James, and Faulkner. Her critical biography, Jack London’s Racial Lives, appeared in 2009, and her co-authored Jack London, Photographer appeared in 2010, both U of Georgia P. Her most recent book is Jack London in His Own Times, 2020, U of Iowa P. Her essays and book chapters have appeared in journals including the Mark Twain Annual, the Mark Twain Journal, American Literary Realism, and American Literary Naturalism. Her current project is her book, Mark Twain Vs. God: The Story of a Relationship.

My forthcoming book, Mark Twain Vs. God: The Story of a Relationship, under contract with the University of Georgia Press, needs to be finished and indeed come forth.

The book demonstrates that Twain aims at God and belief in many settings. In some works he attacks hypocritical churchgoers and organized Christianity; in others he naturalistically surveys humanity and the false “spiritual” worlds men and women have created for themselves. His Defendant and Judge are the same: God Himself, not “religion.” He does not spare Americans’ most cherished institutions: first religion, but also banks, police, courts, Congress, clergy, the bourgeois class he married into, Sunday School, universities, U.S, Imperialism. He imagines medieval cultures against modernity. He seeks God behind Nature in the West and in the cities of the East. He travels with other “pilgrims” to the holy sites of Europe and Palestine. He tracks the Euro-American global imperialism of his age. But in more fantastic works his evolving understandings of the relationship between himself and God, and God and humanity take his readers from myth to reality to myth to reality again—Eden and the Flood through the Civil War to the Gilded Age, and from dream-life to real-life and back again. His questions about the Creator’s intentions remain as provocative now as they were when he first penned them. Oddly, though Twain sometimes sounds like or outright says he is God’s agent here on Earth, he hated God more than anyone; he never used the kind of invective he reserves for the Almighty on anyone else. He is essentially outraged by the hoax or catch-22 God presents humanity. He made us as we are but damns us for it. Particularly troubling to Twain is the actual Creator’s indifference, coupled with the God of the Bible, who made us in His image but should not have admitted it; this split is clearest in Letters from the Earth.

Ariel Silver

Sponsor: Joseph Csicsila, Eastern Michigan University

Ariel Silver is the author of The Book of Esther and the Typology of Female Transfiguration in American Literature (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) and a contributor to Esther in America (Maggid, 2020). Her work on Margaret Fuller and May Alcott has just been published in The Forgotten Alcott (Routledge, 2021). She has written on Joan of Arc in the work of Hawthorne, Adams, and Twain for a RFEA special issue on Joan of Arc in America (2019) Her article on Twain’s Roughing It, “From Liverpool to the Lion House,” is forthcoming in the Mark Twain Journal. She currently serves as President-elect of the Hawthorne Society.

The purpose of her Quarry Farm Fellowship is to complete a chapter on Twain for a larger proposed monograph, The Literary Eve. The chapter on Twain – “There was Eden” – serves as a crucial point of transition in the project, moving from male to female authorial consideration of this iconic scriptural figure whose story has come to represent so fundamentally a conception of the female and her place across the monotheistic world. By placing Adam and Eve in the context of one another in The Diaries of Adam and Eve, Twain suggests that their fortunes and their fates, their tribulations, and their joys, are inextricable. Written near the end of his life, in a period when he also produced Recollections of Joan of Arc, this work of religious commentary by Twain deftly combines the serious and the satirical to produce a wholly new view of Eve. Even as the historical-critical method begins to be applied to the Bible, Twain comically attempts his own textual deconstruction and reconsideration of the Genesis text in a manner that gives space for a female voice and perspective, however funny, however ironic. This chapter then sets the stage for the American female writers who take up their own critique of how Eve has been cast and how she can and should be deeply reconsidered.

Bridget Bossart van Otterloo

Sponsor: Joseph Lemak, Elmira College

Bridget Bossart van Otterloo paints and teaches in Corning, New York. Her artwork is about the beauty in nature. She has a degree in Studio Art from Houghton College and has studied in Florence, Italy. Bridget moved to Corning in 2002 to work as an apprentice and studio assistant for the late Thomas S. Buechner. She currently works from her light-filled home studio, where her subjects include still life, flowers, plants, portraits and landscapes painted in oils and watercolor. Bridget teaches painting workshops from her home studio. She has also has taught art classes at local youth centers, museums, libraries, Corning Community College, and public schools. Bridget has been on the faculty of 171 Cedar Arts Center teaching oil painting and watercolor painting classes since 2002. Bridget’s work can be viewed at several venues in New York State including The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes in Corning, The North Star Gallery in Ithaca, Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, Oxford Gallery in Rochester, Gallery 54 in Skaneateles, and The Franklin Street Gallery in Watkins Glen.

I plan to spend my time at Quarry Farm completing a series of landscape paintings in oil, as well as sketches in pencil and watercolor. Weather permitting, the landscape paintings will be painted “en plein air” – out in the open air. The grounds, buildings, and forest around Quarry Farm will be the sources of my inspiration for these paintings. Something magical happens while painting on location, especially in a place with the rich history of Quarry Farm. I also plan to take advantage of the preserved interior of Quarry Farm and complete some sketches of the rooms and historic details. I look forward to being inspired by the beauty of Samuel Clemens’s family home and the surrounding landscape, as he was inspired by it.