Ariel Silver kicks off the 2022 Park Church Lecture Series

The 2022 Park Church Summer Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) kicks off its first lecture at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 22 at The Park Church (208 W. Gray Street, Elmira). The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website. 

The first lecture, “‘There was Eden’: Eve in the Time of Twain” will be presented by writer Ariel Silver.

Illustration from Eve’s Diary (1906) 

Twain’s treatment of Eve in Eve’s Diary (1906), published shortly after the death of his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, combines a triptych of ideas: a loving homage to his beloved spouse, a reflection on religious debates about evolution relative to ecclesiastical and social order, and an expression of the political concerns of women, called “suffragettes” for the first time that year to mark their direct engagement in their quest for the vote. Composed in tandem with Adam’s Diary (1904), Twain suggests that the fortunes of Adam and Eve are inextricable. If “original sin” was committed, they both bear responsibility. If their fall was fortunate, then they proceed together on that path of human possibility. Twain deftly combines the serious and satirical to produce a wholly new view of Eve. Even as the historical-critical method is applied to the Bible, Twain comically attempts his own textual deconstruction and reconsideration of the Genesis text, giving space for a female voice and perspective even as he reflects cleverly on own his multi-faceted engagement with the “woman question.” 

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). She wrote on Esther in the work of Louisa May Alcott in “Queen Aster and Queen Esther” for The Lehrhaus (2021). Her work on Margaret Fuller and May Alcott has just been published in The Forgotten Alcott (Routledge, 2022). Ariel writes on women, literature, and religion in nineteenth-century American culture. She currently serves as President-elect of the Hawthorne Society and is a Quarry Farm Fellow for 2022. 

A tour of the Park Church will be given by the Park Church Staff immediately following the lecture.

The 2022 Park Church Summer Lecture Schedule:

  • Wed., July 6: “Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in Pseudo-Scientific Socialist Utopias” by Max Chapnick, Boston University
  • Wed., July 20: “Mutiny on the Ballot: Conversion Narrative in Mark Twain’s ‘The Great Revolution in Pictairn” Bill Hunt, Barton College

The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded in January 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by Jervis Langdon, Jr., the great-grand-nephew of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The Center offers distinctive programs to foster and support Mark Twain scholarship and to strengthen the teaching of Mark Twain at all academic levels. The Center serves the Elmira community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain. 

Founded in 1846 by a group of abolitionists, The Park Church maintains its strong social justice presence in Elmira. Founding congregants, including the Langdons, were close friends and family members to Mark Twain. It is known for its striking architectural features and fervent pastor, Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, who opened his study as Elmira’s first public library in 1876. Today it is a vibrant, progressive United Church of Christ congregation – open and affirming, welcoming all people to worship and participate in its communal life regardless of ethnic origin, race, class, age, ability, gender, or sexual orientation.