2020 Mark Twain Writing Contest and Art Competition Open to Elmira College Students

Have you written an excellent paper, taken a fantastic photograph, or painted an outstanding picture inspired by Mark Twain or his literature? If so, then all Elmira College students, both undergraduate and graduate, should consider submitting their works to CMTS’ two annual contests.

2020 Portraying Mark Twain Art Competition

All Elmira College students are encouraged to upload digital files of artwork they have created that portrays Mark Twain, Mark Twain in Elmira or some aspect of Mark Twain’s literature.Up to $350 in prize money will be distributed among winning entries. Winning entries will be featured in publications of Elmira College and the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Deadline: March 30, 2020. You can find more information here.

2020 Mark Twain Writing Contest

Rebecca Heagy ’19 receives a cash prize from Dr. Joseph Lemak as winner of the 2019 Mark Twain Writing Contest

Elmira College students are encourage to submit their best creative or scholarly writing projects inspired by Mark Twain or his literature. Scholarly and literary essays should develop an explicit theme or thesis and should have a clear sense of analysis or bibliographical material. Creative essays or works should focus on Mark Twain’s writing or life. Winners will receive a cash prize and have their name added to the list of past winners on the Mark Twain Statue located in the entrance to McGraw Hall. Deadline: April 27, 2020. You can find more information here.



Art Exhibit Inspired by the View from the Quarry Farm Porch Coming Soon

View from the Quarry Farm Porch (Photo by Jan Kather)

While thousands of people every year visit the Mark Twain Study, located in the heart of the Elmira College campus, few people have had the opportunity to visit Quarry Farm, the original location of the Study. Quarry Farm, on the U.S. Register of Historic Places, remains today much as it did at the time when the Langdon family bequeathed it to Elmira College in 1982. The Langdon family insisted that Quarry Farm remain a living home and asked that the main house be used as a writer’s retreat for scholars and artists working in the field of Mark Twain Studies. In essence, in the same place where Mark Twain wrote his most iconic works, a national and international group of scholars now write about Mark Twain.

Since Quarry Farm is not open to the general public, CMTS created a virtual tour so that the public could see the nineteenth century collections, the writing and research workspaces, and overall interior of the house. The virtual tour can be found here.

Samuel Clemens seated in a rocking chair on the porch at Quarry Farm, East Hill, Elmira New York.
Mark Twain on the Quarry Farm Porch (1903)

The main house contains original 19th century furnishings, artwork, textiles, books, wall finishes, and architectural features and objects that continue to be unraveled by scholarship.  At the time of the Langdon gift, Quarry Farm had been owned by four generations of the Langdon family, starting in 1868.  As a result, most of the current collection was present when Mark Twain resided at Quarry Farm. The books on the shelves in the library contain marginal notes and markings from Mark Twain with bookplates and inscriptions of the Langdon family, the Crane family, and Ida Langdon, Mark Twain’s niece, who was a longtime professor at Elmira College. 

The collection also contains a number of reference works, first editions, and other rare books which are hard to find outside university libraries and special collections. For many scholars-in-residence, this may be the first time they have had access to such resources. Few scholars at any career stage have the opportunity to peruse such materials at their leisure over the course of several weeks, all without leaving the quiet, private, and picturesque domestic space in which many, starting with Twain himself, have found the ideal conditions for writing.  Current residents share the same spectacular view of the Chemung River Valley as the famous author, his family, and his in-laws.  Many scholars believe that contemplating this view and watching his young daughters play and grow up at Quarry Farm inspired Twain to write about parts of his childhood on the Mississippi River that resulted in the creation Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, America’s most iconic characters of childhood.

It is this view that has inspired an upcoming art exhibit at the Community Arts of Elmira.

The Community Art of Elmira presents Clemens and The Pen – Perspectives from The Porch at Quarry Farm

Exhibit Opening is Saturday, December 14, 2019 at Community Arts of Elmira (413 Lake Street, Elmira)
Exhibit Artists and Community Arts of Elmira Staff on the Quarry Farm Porch
  • Saturday, December 14, 2019
  • 6:00-8:00pm
  • Free & Open to the Public
  • Community Arts of Elmira – 413 Lake Street – Elmira, New York – 14901
  • www.communityartsofelmira.com

Clemens and The Pen – Perspectives from The Porch at Quarry Farm is an exhibition of visual art, fashion and poetry created by artists who participated in the inaugural “Clemens and The Pen – Studio Session on The Porch at Quarry Farm” (June 29, 2019). Regional artists, designers and poets include Satyavani Akula, Bridget Bossart van Otterloo, Joe Caparulo, Christopher Eldred, Matt Guagliardo, Lynne Rusinko, Laura Jaen Smith, Brent Stermer, Sam Somostrada, and Shannah Warwick! 

Lynne Rusinko stated that “Community Arts of Elmira is most grateful to the participating artists who applied through application and the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies.”

For more information on future artist opportunities for Clemens and The Penemail [email protected]

Perfect Pairings of Music & Literature: A Holiday Collaboration with The Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes

Want to learn more about how Mark Twain and his family celebrated Christmas, while also listening to holiday-themed music at the historic Clemens Center? Next Saturday, December 7th, Dr. Matt Seybold will be presenting selections from Twain’s holiday writings as part of the “Perfect Pairings” series created by the OSFL. Tickets are available now at ClemensCenter.org

Discount tickets are available with a Student ID.

CFP: Mark Twain Circle at ALA Conference in San Diego, CA (May 21-24, 2020)

Mark Twain Circle of America at the 2020 American Literature Association Conference

CFP Mark Twain Circle of America for ALA 2020, San Diego, May 21-24, 2020

Title: “Mark Twain Reading/Reading Mark Twain”

Mark Twain was an avid—and participatory—reader, combing through texts with pencil in hand, marking and annotating as he went. His characters read, too–and they leave evidence of their reading in their dialogue and their own writings.  Furthermore, Twain’s own readers show the impact of his writings in the plots, characters, and satirical episodes written in Twain’s wake.  The MTC call for proposals for the 2020 ALA conference focuses on reading broadly defined, including–but not limited to–what, how, and where Twain read, the influence of his reading on his writings, and the impact of Twain’s own works on subsequent writers.

We enthusiastically encourage junior and emerging scholars to present their work.  Graduate students chosen to present may apply for a grant from Mark Twain Circle’s Louis Budd Travel Fund to help defray some of the costs of attending the conference.

While we seek submissions without restriction, all presenters must be active members of the Mark Twain Circle at the time of the conference (information about membership is available at our website https://marktwaincircle.org/join-the-mark-twain-circle-of-america-2/join/

Presentations sponsored by the Mark Twain Circle are often developed into articles that appear in the Mark Twain Annual, published by Penn State University Press.

Send proposals (400 words or fewer) by January 15, 2020 to Larry Howe, president of the Mark Twain Circle ([email protected]).

CFP: American Humor Studies at ALA Conference in San Diego, CA (May 21-24, 2020)

American Humor Studies Association at the 2020 American Literature Association Conference

AHSA is currently calling for abstracts for two panels:

Panel #1 – The American Humor Studies Association seeks abstracts for a session titled “Take my husband … please: Humor and the Home”*for the American Literature Association annual conference in San Diego, Calif., May 21-24, 2020.

AHSA welcomes submissions that explore literary, visual, and performative examples of how American humor has been deployed to critique, analyze, and respond to life in the private sphere: from the physical home, to family life, to sexuality. Abstracts may propose analyses of specific texts and images, from any time frame or medium, including biography, political cartoons, social media, films, plays, television, and stand-up comedy.

Please email a brief CV and 300-word abstract (and please indicate any audio/visual needs) by December 16, 2019 to Teresa Prados-Torreira ([email protected]) using “Humor and the Home” as the subject line. All panelists will need to be current members of AHS

Panel #2 – The American Humor Studies Association seeks abstracts for an “Open-Topic” session for the American Literature Association annual conference in San Diego, May
21-24, 2020.

AHSA encourages submissions on any topic related to American humor for this session.

Please email a brief CV and 300-word abstract (and please indicate any audio/visual needs) by December 16, 2019 to Teresa Prados-Torreira ([email protected]) using “Open Topic Panel” as the subject line. All panelists will need to be current members of AHSA.

CFP: American Humor Studies Association in Austin, TX (June 18-20, 2020)

American Humor Studies Association

The Comedy and Humor Studies SIG of SCMS

Website: https://humorinamericaconference.wordpress.com

“Comedy/Humor” will be held on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin from June 18-20, 2020. The conference will feature paper panels and roundtables on all aspects of American humor, American comedy, and all thing and topics in between.

Please send proposals to [email protected] by February 3, 2020. Notifications will be sent by March 20. Please feel free to contact the conference organizers with any questions at [email protected].

PAPERS: Proposals for paper presentations of 15-17 minutes should consist of a 250-word proposal and A/V requests. 

ROUNDTABLES: Proposals for organized roundtables of 8-10 minute statements from each participant with significant time for discussion.  Include an overview of 100  words for the overall theme, a brief description of each presenter’s topic, a proposed Chair (not required), and A/V requests. 

NOTE: you may participate in one roundtable and give one paper.  

WORKS IN PROGRESS: Participant will submit a working draft of a book chapter or journal article one month before the conference for posting on conference website.  Participants will sign up to read and discuss work in progress during a lunch or breakfast session, with food provided. 

Note: you may submit a “Works in Progress” proposal and a paper or roundtable proposal, but the topics should be different.

ARTISTIC PERFORMANCES: We are willing to consider approaches to humor studies that incorporate non-traditional modes.  We are also willing to facilitate a performance or screening to encourage discussion.  Email with questions.

We welcome proposals for paper presentations on any topic related to American humor and/or American comedy, broadly conceived. Scholars across the humanities are invited to present research on any of the following topics (or others related to humor, comedy, laughter, etc., etc.):

  • the relationship between comedy and humor as conceptual categories, along with all other related questions of theory and terminology 
  • comedy in all its forms (TV, film, stand-up, podcasts, sketch, improv,    theater, improv, etc.)
  •  literary humor (novels, tales, sketches, poetry, children’s books, YA, science fiction, magazines, etc. from all times and places)
  • visual humor, comics, and graphic narratives
  • podcasts, internet humor, memes, and other new media
  • humor and gender, race, sexuality, class, religion, etc.
  • satire, ridicule, parody, wit and other forms of humor
  • humor in “serious” contexts or works
  • humor in regional, national, transnational, international, and other spatial contexts 

We especially welcome proposals from scholars of color, junior scholars, and independent scholars. Graduate students attending the conference will be eligible for “Constance Rourke Travel Grant” to assist with travel funds. We highly encourage scholars to contribute to this fund.  See the conference website for more information.

Attendees must be (or become) a member of the American Humor Studies Association. Presenters will be highly encouraged to submit article-length versions of their work for possible publication in Studies in American Humor, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Humor Studies Association since 1974 and in conjunction with the Penn State University Press since 2015.  

The conference registration fee will be $40 for graduate students, adjunct faculty, and independent scholars, and $75 for tenure-track faculty members. 

Judith Yaross Lee Concludes the 2019 Fall ‘Trouble Begins’ Series

The fall portion of the 2019-2020 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, concludes on Wednesday, October 30 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. The lecture, which begins at 7:00 p.m., is free and open to the public.

“Mark Twain’s 70th Birthday: Souvenir of Its Celebration,”
Supplement to Harper’s Weekly, September 25, 1905


The lecture, “Sociable Sam: Mark Twain Among Friends,” will be presented by Judith Yaross Lee, Distinguished Professor Emerita at Ohio University. Samuel Clemens joked in one of his lectures that he had met “uncommonplace characters . . . Bunyan, Martin Luther, Milton, and . . . others,” but it’s not stretching much to say that he knew just about everyone famous between the Civil War and World War I. By 1892, his social network had grown so large that eleven-year-old Jean Clemens, impressed that her
parents had received a dinner invitation from Germany’s Emperor Wilhelm II, remarked, “Why papa, if it keeps going on like this, pretty soon there won’t be anybody left for you to get acquainted with but God.” Yet sociable Sam Clemens was more than a famous
guy who knew other famous folks: from the start of his career as Mark Twain, his writings grew from and through interactions with others. This illustrated lecture traces the impact of that sociability on some of his most important works.


Judith Yaross Lee studies American humor and other popular discourses in interdisciplinary historical contexts. Among the five books and 60 articles that she has published are Twain’s Brand: Humor in Contemporary American Culture (2012), showing how
Mark Twain pioneered contemporary practices in stand-up comedy and comic brand management, and Garrison Keillor: A Voice of America (1991), the first analysis of this major comic performer and writer. Current projects include Seeing MAD: Essays on Mad Magazine’s History and Legacy from Cover to Fold-In (co-edited with John Bird) and a revised history of American comic rhetoric, American Humor and Matters of Empire, also the theme of a 2020 Quarry Farm Symposium.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series – In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series. The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Next ‘Trouble Begins’ Examines Twain’s Hartford Home

The fall portion of the 2019-2020 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues on Wednesday, October 23 in the Barn at Quarry Farm.  The lecture, which begins at 7:00 p.m., is free and open to the public.

The lecture, “‘We found we had a little cash left over..’: Sam and Livy’s Hartford Dream House and Its Architectural Roots,” will be presented by Pieter Roos, executive director of the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Just as would be the case today, Sam and Livy Clemens embarked on an adventure in building a new house. Like any young couple, having the dream, selecting an architect, and seeing a project through to the finish is always a challenge. Sam and Livy spent a substantial portion of her inheritance on the house, and their love for it was life-long, even after they left it. At the time of its completion, the Hartford Courant remarked that the house was the newest marvel of Hartford, a city replete with large and expensive works of domestic architecture. Their architect, Edward Tuckerman Potter, designed a house that was undoubtedly stylish and thoroughly contemporary, but while it fell within the general early precepts of the Stick Style, it was not in the mainstream, and still stands out today in its individuality. A few year’s after the initial completion, the Clemens’ engaged Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated artists to take the interior up to a whole new level. This lecture looks both at the Clemens’ personal journey in construction and the architectural roots of a remarkable and iconic building and what made it the singular example of the Stick Style that it became and remains today.

Roos has served in the museum field since 1984, working all over the Northeast. In 1999 he became the founding executive director of the Newport Restoration Foundation, a preservation and museum organization that administers some 82 historic properties. In 2016 he created the groundbreaking “Keeping History Above Water” conference, the first national discussion of the impact of climate change on historic preservation. Since 2017, Pieter has served as the executive director of the Mark Twain House and Museum. During the last two years, programming has doubled, and $2.8 million has been raised to enhance programming and operations and to preserve the campus and the house. Roos has written and lectured extensively, teaching at both Harvard University and Brown University. In 2017 he was the recipient of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission’s Fred Williamson Award for Professional Excellence and the Doris Duke Preservation Award.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series – In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public. 

Fall ‘Trouble Begins’ Lecture Explores Huck Finn

The fall portion of the 2019-2020 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues on Wednesday, October 16 in Peterson Chapel, Cowles Hall at Elmira College.  The lecture, which begins at 7:00 p.m. lecture is free and open to the public.

The lecture, “‘He ain’t a-comin’ back no mo’: Huck Finn as an American Myth,” will be presented by Tim DeRoche, producer and author. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a rousing adventure, a realistic depiction of American boyhood, a satirical critique of American society, and a foundational text for all of modern American literature. But part of what makes the story so transcendent and enduring is that Huck Finn is also a myth. In this story of two fugitives fleeing down a river, Mark Twain taps into universal themes and tropes that recur in fairy tales, folklore, and religious narratives. That’s one reason that American writers and filmmakers have been retelling this story – both overtly and covertly – for the last 100 years. Seeing Huck Finn through the lens of Joseph Campbell’s universal “hero’s journey” helps reveal why the book has been so important in the formation of the American psyche but also why the ending can feel so unsatisfying. As the prototype for a particular American myth, Huck Finn will be retold over and over as long as our society persists – perhaps even longer.

DeRoche is the author of The Ballad of Huck & Miguel, a modern-day retelling of Huck Finn set on the Los Angeles River. Featured on CBS Sunday Morning in May of 2019, the book has been called “satirical, funny, thrilling, hopeful, and human” by the Mark Twain Forum. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Tim DeRoche emigrated to California to attend Pomona College, where he studied English literature. A graduate of the PBS Producers Academy at WGBH in Boston, he also holds a certificate in feature-film screenwriting from UCLA. He served as executive producer and writer of the children’s science series Grandpa’s Garage, produced by Turner Learning for Georgia Public Television. Tim has written for the Washington PostEducation WeekSchool Administrator, and the Los Angeles Business Journal. His new nonfiction book Separated By Law will be published in 2020 and takes a close look at the policies and laws that assign American children to schools based on where they live.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series – In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public. 

Summary of Recent Posts on MarkTwainStudies.org

Political Cartoon by T.E. Power depicting Mark Twain and H.H. Rogers

This summer, Matt Seybold launched a new series, “Mark Twain’s Portfolio,” in which he explores Sam Clemens’s career as an entrepreneur and investor. The first installment in the series, discussing the United Fruit Company, was named “A Great Weekend Read” by Politico and “Best of The Week” by The Browser. A second installment covers the Anaconda and Amalgamated Copper Companies. Further episodes will follow in coming months.

Mark Twain’s Portfolio: Existential Hedging & The United Fruit Company

Mark Twain’s Portfolio: Hell-Hound Rogers, Anaconda Copper, & The Spider Aristocracy of Finance


August 11th was the 150th Anniversary of the publication of Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad. The Center for Mark Twain Studies is marking the occasion by publishing reflections by several scholars who have studied the book and the voyage upon which it was based. Jeanne Campbell Reesman of University of Texas – San Antonio discusses Twain’s changing perspectives on India. Jeffrey Melton of University of Alabama argues that The Innocents Abroad “changed everything” for American Travel Writing. We also published selections from the 1869 reviews. More installments of “150 Years of The Innocents Abroad” are also in the works.

“An Ode To The Innocents Abroad by Jeffrey Melton

“From Innocent to India: Mark Twain’s Evolving Sympathies” by Jeanne Campbell Reesman

“150 Years of Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad by Matt Seybold

“Buy It, Laugh, & Grow Fat”: The 1869 Reviews of Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad by Matt Seybold


In September we published a digitized edition of the rare manuscript, Drinking With Twain, written by the first mayor of Elmira Heights, Frank Kelsey, and featuring his somewhat unreliable recollections of the social life of Elmira in the late Nineteenth Century. Only five hundred copies of this self-published pamphlet were printed in 1936, very few of which survive. This is the first time it has been made available to the general public.

“Drinking With Twain”: A Rare Manuscript


Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch (left), Nina Gabrilowitsch (middle), and
Ossip Gabrilowitsch (right)

In Hannibal earlier this year, Alan Rankin shared an intimate and heart-wrenching account of his discovery of the 1924 diary of Nina Gabrilowitsch, Mark Twain’s granddaughter. Only after becoming fascinated with its author did he learn that she was part of a famous family and that the remainder of her life had been marred by tragedy. His painstakingly-researched and tearjerking tribute is now available for all to read, including selections from the diary. 

“Finding the Lost Diary of Mark Twain’s Granddaughter, Nina Gabrilowitsch” by Alan Rankin