The Park Church Culture Into Which Mark Twain Married: An Introduction to “Mark Twain’s Music Box”

EDITOR”S NOTE: The following was offered as an introduction to the performance of “Mark Twain’s Music Box” at the Park Church in Elmira on February 8th, 2019.

117 years ago this week, in February of 1902, Mark Twain, age 66, took off running after a train that was leaving from the Elmira depot on what is now 3rd St. (you know, behind the McDonald’s). He fell, badly scraping his hand, but after picking himself up he managed to get the attention of the brakeman, who helped him climb aboard. Upon arriving in New York City the next morning without a coat or hat, having shedded them during the chase, one of the reporters charged with meeting his train asked America’s foremost celebrity about his bandaged hand. Twain replied, “I have just come down from Elmira. It is a great place to keep away from in winter…the express trains passing through never stop long enough to see whether a fellow gets on or not…but I was going to catch that train if I had to lose a leg, or an eye, or an ear. I was determined to lose something.”

Twain mostly stayed away from Elmira during the Winter, but every Summer and Fall, he and his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, and their three daughters could be found here. And I mean that quite literally. Livy and the girls were dependable congregants at the Park Church, which her family had financed when Thomas K. Beecher’s congregation became so big it could only be accommodated by an Opera House. Mr. Clemens, though he was not as dependable a presence in the chapel, could frequently be found in the rooms behind it, especially the pool room where Reverend Beecher is rumored to have kept beer on tap.

The Clemenses winter residence in Hartford, CT was across the street from that of Reverend Beecher’s sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the famed author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Mark Twain, somewhat facetiously called Mrs. Stowe the “self-appointed instructor of the public.” On Twain’s 100th Birthday, in 1935, her grandson, Lyman Beecher Stowe, returned the favor. He stood on this very spot and delivered a lecture called “Mark Twain, Self-Appointed Instructor of the Public,” in which he argued that Mr. Clemens, admired though he was, had the unfortunate lot of being a “confirmed pessimist, though he often laughed through the tears.”

Max Eastman, another famous son of Elmira, saw things rather differently. He and his sister, Crystal, two important activists in the suffrage movement, lived in this building while their mother, Annis Ford Eastman, was minister here. Reverend Eastman was the first woman ordained in the state of New York and the person who Mark Twain chose to write his eulogy. Max Eastman, who, I repeat, literally grew up in a church, called Mark Twain the only “saint of a faith to which I adhere.” This, Max said, was “the exact center of one of the most interesting clusters of people and ideas that American churchdom has ever produced.”

This small, upstate town founded the first degree-granting college for women, was a key junction in the Underground Railroad, and was one of the first American communities to embrace abolitionism, the Women’s Rights Movement, prison reform, and radical anti-poverty initiatives. According to Max, Mark Twain was the prophet of a “gospel of revolt” which he did not bring to Elmira, but found here and sought to spread around the world. Max wrote,

“There was a hardier and deeper ‘radicalism’ in the Park Church culture into which Mark Twain married than there was in Mark Twain. To find so much open revolt against empty forms and conventions, so much laughing realism, and downright common sense, and democracy, and science, and reckless truth-telling in these people of Elmira who were, nevertheless, dedicated with moral courage to an ideal, may well have given Mark Twain the possession of his deepest and best self.”

from “Mark Twain’s Elmira” by Max Eastman (Harper’s Magazine, 1938)

The first time Max met Twain was, appropriately, when he stopped by during the installation of a new organ on the stage from which tonight’s music will be played. He requested a specific work by Richard Wagner to test out the grand new instrument, but later whispered to young Max, “That stuff’s all too high up for me. I live right down here!

Tonight’s show captures, through his musical tastes, many of the resilient paradoxes of Mark Twain. He was simultaneously high and low, vulgar and refined, cynically fatalistic and radically progressive. He could say, without irony, “I am not an American, I am the American,” and also be among the most cosmopolitan men of the 19th century, whose works, as well as his feet, took hold on every continent.

As the poet, Robertus Love, put it upon Twain’s death:

“Mark Twain became before he died the most famous man on earth. He was not merely a man: he was an institution. He was a sort of neighborhood settlement of good cheer, with many branches located in the oases as in the waste places…Millions – how many millions is beyond estimating – came and partook of his optimism and stayed for supper. His fame was and is universal. Though an American born…he belonged to all lands…He had perhaps more permanent homes than any other man of his day. Nearly always he was a wanderer, sometimes from necessity, more frequently from choice. The world was his plaything, and he was not content without remapping for himself the surface of the big ball.”

from “Mark Twain, King of Humor” by Robertus Love (Pittsburgh Gazette, 1910)

This tireless wanderer who became “the most famous man on earth” had, at last, one permanent home and it was by way of this very chapel and the words of Annis Eastman that he was transported to it.

Mark Twain wrote, “As to the past, there is but one good thing about it, and that is, that it is the past – we don’t have to see it again. There is nothing in it worth pickling.” Yet he penned these words from a place, Quarry Farm, which never failed to inspire a flood of memories, upon which his most successful works were based. This is the lasting paradox of Twain’s Quarry Farm novels, that they depend transparently upon remembrance and reflection, yet are also steadfastly resistant to the sentimental and romantic aesthetics one expects to be associated with such nostalgia. The Quarry Farm novels manage to be, like the community in which they were written, somehow simultaneously reverent and radical.

Just as Twain’s Quarry Farm novels look backward, unromantically, to more clearly reflect the unsentimental realities of Gilded Age America, the Center for Mark Twain Studies has inherited a sometimes counterintuitive mission: preserving the legacy of Mark Twain in Elmira, while also subsidizing the future of Mark Twain scholarship everywhere. Among those scholars which we are proud to support is Kerry Driscoll, a former Elmira College professor who wrote the essay upon which tonight’s performance is based. It is my honor to introduce: “Mark Twain’s Music Box.”

Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes will perform “Mark Twain’s Music Box”

By 1878 Sam Clemens had accomplished substantial wealth and fame and was living comfortably with his wife Livy and their family near Hartford, Connecticut.  Yet something important was missing.  A wide gap persisted between his personal cultural development and that of his upscale neighbors and social circles in the Hartford area. 

Sam and Livy resolved to fix this gap by extended travel and cultural study in Western Europe.  Beginning in 1878 they set out to tour seven countries in Western Europe.  Given the prevailing stylistic differences between European and American music at the time, confrontation of these differences was inevitable.  Following a symphonic musical performance in Baden Baden, Germany by the Baden Baden Philharmonie, Sam wrote his compelling and introspective analysis of music, defining the place of music in human society.  Although he showed an interest in music and made passing reference to his musical preferences on prior occasions, this time he faced music head-on with a clear and compelling message.  It was a time of an obvious inflection point in his cultural development regarding music.   

In the musical production Mark Twain’s Music Box, the important role of a music box is woven into the story of Sam Clemens’ relationship to music.  The mysteries surrounding the music box extend to this day.  Perhaps our audience can play some role in finally resolving these 140 year old conundrums.  Join the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble, consisting of what Twain would call ten “high grade” musicians, as they deliver the intriguing story of the music box and Mark Twain’s relationship to music. 

We wish to thank the following organizations and individuals for their important contributions and collaborations in the development and presentation of Mark Twain’s Music Box:

  • The Park Church
  • Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies
  • Dr. Barbara Snedecor, former Director of CMTS
  • Dr. Joseph Lemak, current Director of CMTS
  • The Baden Baden Philharmonie, Baden Baden, Germany
  • Herr Arndt Joosten, Orchestermanager
  • Kiril Nikolow, Principle Cello
  • Dr. Kerry Driscoll, University of St. Joseph, Hartford, Connecticut

Concert details:

The Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes is proud to announce its third Musicians’ Choice Chamber Series concert of the 2018-19 season.  This concert, titled Mark Twain’s Music Box, will be held in the majestic sanctuary of the historic Park Church in Elmira on Friday, February 8 at 7:30 PM.  All ages are welcome.

Mark Twain’s Music Box explores Sam Clemens’ (Mark Twain’s) fascinating personal relationship with music.  The production is filled with live music, drama, mystery, and the comedy befitting the title character.  Mark Twain’s Music Box is a one of a kind concert that uses fine music to teach about important history, while using important history to teach about fine music. 

25% Off Group Discount for 10 or more, group rates available by phone or in person.

Relive Twain’s Summer of 1884 with the Final Lecture of the “Trouble Begins” 2018 Season

The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, concludes Wednesday, November 7 when presenter John Bird takes the audience through Twain’s summer of 1884 at Quarry Farm.  The final fall lecture begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Barn at Quarry Farm.  The lecture is free and open to the public.

 

Mark Twain working in the Study, circa 1880’s.

Bird, emeritus professor of English at Winthrop University, will present “‘At the Farm’: Reliving Mark Twain’s 1884 Summer at Quarry Farm.”  As he did for many summers, Mark Twain packed up his family (including dogs and cats, and in this case, a bicycle) and left Hartford for an extended stay at Elmira’s Quarry Farm. Part of his current work-in-progress, a micro-biography of Twain in the year 1884, Bird’s presentation will let audiences relive Twain and his family’s experience that summer. Even though Twain wrote his friend Joe Twichell near the end of the stay that he had not accomplished anything of value during the summer, he actually had an interesting and productive summer: he read a proof of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and made some important revisions; he began a sequel even before he published his novel, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn Among the Indians; he became fully engaged in national politics during the presidential campaign; and he sat for the bust Karl Gerhardt made (twice) at Quarry Farm for the frontispiece of Huck Finn. Just as importantly, he engaged with his family, writing a short but charming personal memoir, “At the Farm,” with humorous and heartwarming anecdotes about his daughters. Living with Mark Twain day-by-day for this summer brings him and his family back to life and gives the audience a window into life at Quarry Farm, a place central to his work and his life.

 

Bird is the author of Mark Twain and Metaphor, as well as a number of articles on Mark Twain. He is a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America.

 

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.

Author of Award-Winning Novel “Flood” Continues the Fall Trouble Begins Series

The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, October 24 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“Writing from Roots in ‘America’s Hometown’: Flood, a Novel” by Melissa Scholes Young, American University

Literature and life often claim you can’t go home again, but what happens if you have to? In this book talk and author reading, Melissa Scholes Young will chronicle how Mark Twain’s own exodus from Hannibal parallels Laura Brooks’, the protagonist of her debut novel, Flood, who like the Mississippi River, once ran in the wrong direction in order to recalibrate. She’ll share her historical research and creative writing process as well as explore whyTwain’s origin in rural America is more relevant than ever.

“Filled with pithy dialogue and cultural references, Scholes Young’s writing ties Laura’s journey of self-discovery squarely to Hannibal and its famous young troublemakers. As Laura reckons with her past, Scholes Young reckons with Twain’s influence on the region. This debut is a wonderful story of home, hope, and the ties that bind us to family.” – Publishers Weekly

Melissa Scholes Young is an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C. and a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, and Poets & Writers. She’s a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and Editor of the anthology Grace in Darkness. Her debut novel, Flood, set in Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown she shares with Mark Twain, was the winner in Literary Fiction for the 2017 Best Book Award.

Here is Kevin Mac Donnell’s review of Flood: A Novel from the Mark Twain Forum Reviews.

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.

TV Critic David Bianculli Explores Mark Twain’s Representation on the Small Screen in the Next “Trouble Begins” Lecture

The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, October 17 in Peterson Chapel, Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus. The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

The lecture, “Mark Twain, TV Star,” will be presented by David Bianculli of Rowan University and NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The real Mark Twain, Samuel L. Clemens, appeared in only one film in his lifetime, shortly before his death: a short silent movie of him walking around his Stormfield home, photographed by Thomas Edison’s Edison film company in 1909. But since then, Mark Twain has been on television dozens of times – immortalized, and impersonated, by a frankly startling array of actors on the small screen. The best of them, Hal Holbrook in his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight!, you know, and should. But the rest of them? Other actors portraying Mark Twain, in various programs over the 70-year-history of television, have ranged from Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby to Woody Harrelson and William Shatner. The character and image of Mark Twain have been kept alive by shows ranging from Bonanza and The Rifleman to Touched by an Angel and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Bianculli will discuss and show clips from all these and more.

TV Critic David Bianculli

Bianculli has been the TV critic for National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where he also appears as occasional guest host, since 1987. Beginning in 1975, he has worked as a TV critic for newspapers in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, most recently for the New York Daily News from 1993-2007. Currently, he is a full-time professor of television and film history at Rowan University, and editor of the website TV Worth Watching (www.tvworthwatching.com), which he launched in 2007. Bianculli has written four books – The Platinum Age of Television: From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘The Walking Dead,’ How TV Became Terrific; Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’; Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously; and Dictionary of Teleliteracy – and has written chapters for and co-edited, with Douglas Howard, Television Finales: From ‘Howdy Doody’ to ‘Girls,’ to be published by Syracuse University Press in November. Bianculli has a B. S. in Journalism and an M. A. in Journalism and Communications, both from the University of Florida.

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.

Neoliberal Rationality in The Old Gilded Age: Introductory Address at 2018 Quarry Farm Symposium

At the outset of his chapter on “The Economics of American Literary Realism” in The Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics (published today, by the way)Henry Wonham asks whether “the diverse set of writers generally aligned with the aesthetic disposition of realism…share an overriding interpretation of the economic conditions that inspired [Mark] Twain and [Charles Dudley] Warner to give [the Gilded Age] its notorious moniker?” The 2018 Quarry Farm Symposium on “American Literary History & Economics in the New Gilded Age” is dedicated in part to answering Wonham’s question, as well as another which it naturally inspires: Does the reappearance of the economic conditions of the Gilded Age, whether in the Era of Good Feelings, the Roaring Twenties, or our own time, correspond with a recycling of aesthetic phenomena?

The potential for an intrinsic link between cultural and economic cycles, what I have elsewhere called the “rhyme of crisis,” provides a rare occasion for agreement between Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. Marx treats mass culture as a projection of class consciousness created by prevailing material conditions, while Keynes argues that changes in macroeconomic conditions are catalyzed by the persuasive narratives saturating the public consciousness via mass media. Their disagreement – about the chain of causation between culture and economy – may not be resolvable, but I’m not sure it needs to be. Merely that such a link exists and manifests itself in the literary record provides a more than adequate foundation for numerous scholarly projects. Projects which have the added benefit of eroding arbitrary periodizations and encouraging conversations across specializations and even disciplines, as is happening this weekend.

Keynes defines economics as a “habit of mind,” a “way of thinking,” and a “branch of logic.” He was quick to remind his colleagues, in the face of their scientistic delusions, that the economy is an imaginary, and, like novelistic fiction, one which is made seductive by the hubris and scope of its claims to verisimilitude. Because no one can imagine the whole of it, every claim about the economy is deeply speculative and contingent. On this front, Keynes had the full support of both his infamous rival, Friedrich Hayek, and his rejected mentor, Alfred Marshall.  All of them worried that their nascent discipline would be corrupted by vain and partisan men who were willfully blinded to the limitations of their economic imaginary by the temptation to whisper in the ears of “madmen in authority.” For this reason, Marshall, who, as founder of the first department, at Cambridge, did as much as anyone to institutionalize Economics, wrote, later in life, “I do not think it would be well that Economics should be studied by very many men, even at Cambridge.”

Alas.

The next generation of economists proceeded, with Faustian arrogance, to present their speculative and contingent imaginary as natural science, insisting that economics was not merely a way of thinking about the complex world, but the only reasonable way of thinking. What Wendy Brown calls “neoliberal rationality” became, through calculated colonization and bureaucratic symbiosis in education, government, and business, a globally hegemonic habit of mind. We are all under pressure to be, as Brown puts it, “always, only, and everywhere…homo oeconomicus.” Neoliberal rationality, “saturat[es] the practices of ordinary institutions and discourses of everyday life…remak[ing] other fields of existence in…its own terms and metrics.” Paul Samuelson unselfconsciously summarizes his profession’s imperial impulse when he says, “I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws – or crafts its advanced treaties – if I can write its economics textbooks.”

Wendy Brown, like Foucault, places the emergence of neoliberal rationality in the late 20th century. Yet, if our culture, as well our economic conditions, mirror the Gilded Age, we could presumably find neoliberal rationality then as well. Consider this passage in a letter Sam Clemens wrote shortly after the death of his eldest daughter:

I did not know that Susy was part of us; I did not know that she could go away, & take our lives with her, yet leave our dull bodies behind. And I did not know what she was. To me she was but treasure in the bank; the amount known, the need to look at it daily, handle it, weight it, count it, realize it, not necessary; & now that I would do it, it is too late; they tell me it is not there, has vanished away in a night, the bank is broken, my fortune is gone, I am a pauper. How am I to comprehend this? Why am I robbed, & who is benefitted?

The image of the “broken” bank was an all too familiar one for Twain, who went bankrupt during the Panic of 1893, and spent the intervening years scrambling to repay his debts and claw his way back to affluence. When Susy fell ill, he was completing a worldwide lecture tour, and thus he found himself separated by oceans, unable to comfort her, unable to attend her funeral, unable to ever fully reconcile himself to her loss, which he blamed upon himself being, like his father and brother before him, constitutionally unfit for business.

Twain spent these years sacrificing his health, his solace, and his artistic ambitions to fulfill his duty as breadwinner. He undertook a crash course in economic rationality from Standard Oil executive Henry Rogers. While he admired Rogers, Twain bristled at the assumptions about human nature underlying the conventional wisdom of US capitalism and the ascendant school of neoclassical economics. As he alludes to the conflation of his parental grief with what, after Susy’s death, seemed petty pecuniary losses, his outrage at the callousness of economics creeps to the surface. He had become so engrossed in neoliberal rationality that he had allowed himself to think of his daughter as human capital, as an appreciating asset in his vault. With characteristic self-loathing, Twain burlesques the underlying assumptions of neoclassical economics in order to expose them as ludicrous and shameful. He concludes with a promise to his confidante that, from this point forward, he will “pay as [he] can, in love; and in this coin practicing no economy.”

The greatest character Twain created in the years surrounding his bankruptcy was David Wilson, better known as “Puddn’head.” Wilson is a polymath and an iconoclast, who enjoys nothing more than questioning conventional wisdom. And because he spends so much time surveying the borders of prescribed knowledge, Puddn’head retains a healthy regard for the “great dark” that lies beyond the horizon of his own intelligence.

On these terms at least, David Sloan Wilson is also a “Puddn’head.” He has done much to erode the conventional wisdom of economics in books like Does Altruism Exist? and essays at Evonomics.com which submit it to the more rigorous standards of evolutionary science. He has also, in The Literary Animal, argued with admirable Puddn’headedness that the relationship between literary studies and evolutionary theory may be “mutually reinforcing.” If we hope to mount a resistance to the false narratives of neoliberal rationality, we need our discipline to explore and expand this natural alliance.

On behalf of the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies, I am proud to welcome tonight’s keynote speaker, David Sloan Wilson and kickoff the 2018 Quarry Farm Symposium.

Dwayne Eutsey’s Talk Focuses on Joseph Twichell’s Sermons at Elmira’s Park Church

The 2018 Mark Twain Lecture Series, hosted by the Chemung County Historical Society and the Center for Mark Twain Studies, concludes on Thursday, August 23 at the Chemung Valley Museum (415 East Water St., Elmira).  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“Never Be in a Hurry to Believe”: How Joe Twichell’s Visits to Elmira and Cornell May Have Saved Huck Finn’s Soul” Dwayne Eutsey, Independent Scholar

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is known for its biting skepticism toward religion.

Joseph Twichell and Mark Twain

However, there is also a deeper and more complex religious undercurrent coursing through Twain’s classic that is often overlooked or misunderstood by contemporary readers. Dwayne Eutsey will explore how the “conservative-progressive” theology of Twain’s good friend and pastor, Joe Twichell, may have influenced these depths with visits to Elmira’s historic Park Church and Cornell’s Sage Chapel in 1876 as Twain was beginning to write his masterpiece.

Dwayne Eutsey is an independent scholar in Mark Twain studies who is writing a book that examines the significant influence of religious liberalism on Mark Twain’s life and writing. Entitled “There is No Humor in Heaven”: Mark Twain and the Religious Liberalism that Shaped His Life, the book will contribute to the ongoing discussion among scholars and the public regarding Twain’s complicated views on religion.

Mr. Eutsey has also written several pieces for MarkTwainStudies.org, which you can read here.

About Chemung County Historical Society

Founded in 1923, the Chemung County Historical Society is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, and presentation of the history of the Chemung Valley region. First chartered by New York State in 1947, today CCHS operates two cultural repositories, the Chemung Valley History Museum and the Booth Library. We are the largest general history museum in our region. Open year round, CCHS tells the history of Chemung County through interactive exhibits, educational programming and lectures for visitors of all ages. The Chemung County Historical Society is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts.

About the Center for Mark Twain Studies
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, 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 College community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain.

 

Nathaniel Ball, CMTS’ Archivist, Reveals Rare Photos of Quarry Farm in Upcoming CCHS Talk

The 2018 Mark Twain Lecture Series, hosted by the Chemung County Historical Society and the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues on Thursday, August 16 at the Chemung Valley Museum (415 East Water St., Elmira).  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“Through the Lens of the Langdons: Capturing Elmira, 1889-1891” Nathaniel Ball, Elmira College

George Eastman’s invention of the Kodak Series 540 in 1888, whose slogan simply stated, “you push a button, we do the rest,” made representational family photography possible.  The Langdon family as early adopters of this new technology, captured images that enrich the portrayal of Mark Twain’s Elmira – depicting the social life, landmarks, and activities central to the family experience – at a time when innovation had moved photography beyond the professional setting, allowing for an intimate vision to be achieved. This presentation will explore the historic significance of these never before seen photographs and how they fit into the narrative of Samuel Clemens’s life.

Nathaniel Ball, a native of nearby Campbell, New York, returned to the Southern Tier as sole archivist for the voluminous Twain-related collections housed in the Mark Twain Archive on the Elmira College campus, as well as the Special Collections Librarian at Gannett-Tripp Library and the curator of Elmira College’s extensive art collection. Nathaniel joined the faculty in July 2015 after working for Truman State University and the Adirondack Museum. He holds a Masters degree in Library & Information Science from Kent State University.

About Chemung County Historical Society

Founded in 1923, the Chemung County Historical Society is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, and presentation of the history of the Chemung Valley region. First chartered by New York State in 1947, today CCHS operates two cultural repositories, the Chemung Valley History Museum and the Booth Library. We are the largest general history museum in our region. Open year round, CCHS tells the history of Chemung County through interactive exhibits, educational programming and lectures for visitors of all ages. The Chemung County Historical Society is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts.

About the Center for Mark Twain Studies
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, 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 College community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain.

 

M.M. Dawley Lectures on Mark Twain and the “American Adam”

The 2018 Mark Twain Lecture Series, hosted by the Chemung County Historical Society and the Center for Mark Twain Studies, begins on Thursday, August 9 at the Chemung Valley Museum (415 East Water St., Elmira).  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“‘Well, ain’t you innocent!’: Mark Twain’s Attack on the American Adam” M.M. Dawley, Boston University

Illustration by Frank Carter Beard from AMERICAN PUBLISHER, July 1872

The trope of the innocent, who reveals cultural absurdities through his seemingly foolish observations, dates back to the earliest satires of Rome and Europe. This innocent brims with certainty that his ignorance is both apt and virtuous, and inspires audiences to laugh at his idiocy. I argue that during what was most commonly referred to as the Gilded Age, a clear thread of satire begins to emerge, one that shifts the innocent from the butt of the joke to the one who slyly delivers the punch line. Although the era was imbued with a faith in progress that led to its moniker “the Confident Years,” it was also a period rife with confidence men who utilized the national obsession with innocence to their advantage. With a wink and a nod to the latter, the satirists of the Gilded Age transformed the American innocent from one to be laughed at to one to be laughed with. There is no better example of the satiric approach to the trope of “the American Adam” than Mark Twain’s iconic character Huckleberry Finn—unless it is Twain’s own Adam. I would like to present a fresh reading of Twain’s approach to the American Adam based on the satire presented in some of the author’s last works of fiction, Letters from the Earth and The Diaries of Adam and Eve. The way in which Twain skewers the notion of innocence in his later writing allows for a new lens through which to examine Huck, as well as the writer’s own atheism. Twain toys with America’s naïve exceptional self-image through the persona of a sympathetic Satan, who ridicules Adam and Eve for their innocence and exposes much national self-delusion in the process. While in his earlier fiction, Twain satirized religion more subtly, by the early twentieth century his open mockery of Christianity took clear aim at the American mythos of exceptionalism, and the many ways in which the nation needed to reorder its priorities.

M.M. Dawley has a Ph.D. from the American & New England Studies program at Boston University, and teaches in the Humanities department at Lesley University. Her current book project for Penn State University Press’s series Humor in America focuses on the literary history of satire in the Gilded Age. Her article, “‘You’d Oughter Start a Scrap-Book: Gossip and Aspirational Culture in The House of Mirth and The Custom of the Country,” appears in the Fall 2017 issue of the Edith Wharton Review. M.M. Dawley has also collaborated with Gene Andrew Jarrett on contributing to the African American Studies module of Oxford Bibliographies Online, published by Oxford University Press.

About Chemung County Historical Society

Founded in 1923, the Chemung County Historical Society is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, and presentation of the history of the Chemung Valley region. First chartered by New York State in 1947, today CCHS operates two cultural repositories, the Chemung Valley History Museum and the Booth Library. We are the largest general history museum in our region. Open year round, CCHS tells the history of Chemung County through interactive exhibits, educational programming and lectures for visitors of all ages. The Chemung County Historical Society is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts.

About the Center for Mark Twain Studies
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, 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 College community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain.

CFP: Special Issue of Mark Twain Annual & 2019 Quarry Farm Symposium – “Mark Twain & the Natural World”

CALL FOR PAPERS SPECIAL ISSUE: MARK TWAIN AND THE NATURAL WORLD

 

The Mark Twain Annual is seeking article-length submissions that examine aspects of Twain’s work that comment on the relation between human beings and the natural world. This broad scope allows for critical examinations of Twain’s writing about the natural world in any number of ways: as nature writing; as a form of environmentalism; as commentary on animal welfare, technology and science, and travel; and as a forerunner to mid-20th to early 21st century writers (Krutch, Abbey, Kingsolver, Quammen, and Gessner) who offer comic responses to nature as well as recognize the comic in the natural world and in our relationship to that world. Anthologies of nature writing may feature short passages from Life on the Mississippi (and sometimes from Roughing It), but most of Twain’s writing about the natural world is left out. More importantly, it is left underexamined. This special issue seeks to explore that unexamined territory in Twain’s fictive and nonfictive writings.

 

In addition to being published in the Annual, authors will have the opportunity to be part of the Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium program sponsored by the Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, New York. The symposium will be held sometime in the beginning of October 2019, one month prior to the publication of the Annual. The gathering will begin with a dinner on the Elmira College campus, followed by a keynote address. The symposium will continue throughout the next day with presentations and discussions in the tranquil atmosphere of Quarry Farm, a writing retreat reserved for scholars and writers working in the field of Mark Twain Studies, where breakfast, lunch, and dinner will also be served. Registrants will be invited back to Quarry Farm on Sunday morning to enjoy an autumnal breakfast and casual discussions. For more information about how the Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium operates, you can view the 2018 Symposium by clicking here.

 

Those interested should submit a 150-word proposal to Ben Click at [email protected] by August 31, 2018. Final manuscripts must be submitted by December 15, 2018. Selected essays should be 4,000-8,000 words in length, but longer essays of more than 8,000 words will also be considered.