Annual Twain Symposium Celebrates 150 years of ROUGHING IT and Twain in the American West

During the recent Eighth Quarry Farm Symposium, Mark Twain scholars and historians examined Twain’s relationship to the American West in honor of the 150th birthday of the famous author’s book Roughing It

The event was co-chaired by Joseph Csicsila of Eastern Michigan University and Ben Click of St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Bruce Michelson, professor emeritus of American Literature at the University of Illinois and author of Mark Twain on the Loose and Printer’s Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution, delivered the keynote speech, “Mercurial Texts and Turbulent Times.”

Presentations continued the next day in the idyllic atmosphere of Quarry Farm. Presentations included:

  • Blake Bronson-Bartlett, “The Wild Traces of Calaveras in Notebook IV” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • James E. Caron, “Mark Twain’s Rival Washoe Correspondents: William Wright and J.Ross Browne” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Christopher Conway, “Postwestern Crossings in Phong Nguyen’s The Adventures of Joe Harper (2016) and Robert Coover’s Huck Out West (2017)” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Kerry Driscoll, “Mark Twain’s Masculinist Fantasy of The West” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Dwayne Eutsey, “‘Thick as Thieves’: Mark Twain and The West’s Spiritual Frontiers” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Sarah Fredericks, “Thumbing the Nose and Maligning the Turnip: Mark Twain’s Western Rhetoric of Insults” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Andrew Hebard, “Corruption and Reform in Mark Twain’s West” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Myrial Holbrook, “The Terra Comica between Mark Twain and Sherman Alexie” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • B.Scott Holmes, “Roughing It from Missouri to Nevada Territory, The Journeys of Samuel L. Clemens and Richard F. Burton” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • James Wharton Leonard, “Mark Twain’s Ambivalent Encounter with The Western Landscape” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Jeffrey Melton, “Nature and Mobility in Mark Twain’s Roughing It“ (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Jeanne Campbell Reesman, “The Mountain Meadows Massacre, as Told by Mark Twain and Jack London” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Matt Seybold, “The Mail-Bag Bed of Empire: Roughing It & The Gossamer Network” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Todd Nathan Thompson, “‘WHY WE SHOULD ANNEX’: Reprints and Repercussions of Twain’s New York Tribune Letters on Hawai’i” (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Alex Trimble Young, “‘The Vigorous New Vernacular’: The ‘Goshoot’ Episode and the Politics of Irony in Roughing It“ (October 2, 2021 – Quarry Farm Barn)

“The Center for Mark Twain Studies fall symposiums are utterly unique experiences,” said Csicsila. “This year’s gathering was no exception. We brought together 15 experts on Mark Twain and the West for a one-day immersion into the topic in the very place where Sam Clemens wrote much of Roughing It, the 1872 groundbreaking account of his travels in the American West.” 

“The conversations that result are always wonderfully rich and often lead to brand new perspectives on Twain and his work” continued Csicsila. “None of this would be possible, however, without the support of the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College and its leadership team. Their vision is unrivaled and the facilities they provide–I mean, how can you possibly top Quarry Farm and that porch as a setting for talking about Mark Twain?”

“It’s important for us to look freshly and deeply into what Roughing It really was when it came out,” said Michelson. “We explored the ways the book reflects the American West that was taking shape headlong in 1870 — and also what it can plausibly say to us right now, so long after, as we keep trying to figure out who and what we are.”
The Symposium program, along with recordings of the keynote address and session presentations, can be found HERE.