On Monday, November 30th, as part of our celebration of Mark Twain’s 180th birthday, Elmira College will host Andrew Levy. Earlier this year, Dr. Levy’s book, Huck Finn’s America, became something of a lightning rod in perpetual debates about the purpose and prescience of Twain’s most famous novel. Discussion of Dr. Levy’s argument spilled out of the pages of academic journals and into popular publications like The New York Times, New Yorker, and even The Financial Times.
Dr. Levy believes “that our understanding of what is comic and what is serious in Huck Finn says more about America in the last century than America in the time Twain wrote the book.” Particularly, to understand the importance of the novel to Twain and his contemporaries, we must refocus on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a work of children’s literature. “Huck Finn is a book about the disconnection between our children’s inner lives and our ways of raising and teaching them,” Dr. Levy asserts, “a disconnection so intimidating that, naturally, we placed this tribute to children’s alienation at the center of public school curricula.”
Monday’s talk, titled “Fraternizing With the Enemy: Revisiting Mark Twain’s Writings For, & About, Children,” expressly takes up this topic, expanding it to include several of Twain’s other works. Even as Dr. Levy acts as our guide through Gilded Age schools, nurseries, and publishing houses, his book and lecture also reveal the extent to which Twain’s careful consideration of the emotional and intellectual lives of children remains relevant to contemporary debates about child-rearing, education, and mass media.
Please join Elmira College and The Center for Mark Twain Studies on Monday, November 30th at 7 PM in Cowles Hall. Dr. Levy’s lecture will be followed by a reception, including Birthday Cake!