Hartford House Hosts Conversation about Mark Twain and Epidemics

Throughout Samuel Clemens’s – Mark Twain’s — lifetime, which stretched from 1835 to 1910, epidemics were a part of family life in all the locales where he settled and traveled: Missouri, the West, Europe, the Middle East, and Hartford, Connecticut.

Twain had intimate experiences with the epidemics that, long before vaccines and antibiotics existed, plagued his world. From his childhood bout with measles in Hannibal, which he says started him on his literary career; through the cholera epidemic quarantine that he defied to visit the Parthenon in Greece; through the fears of miasmic sewer gas that led him to redo the plumbing in his Hartford home, his life was led in the shadow of unrestricted infection.

No one is better equipped to discuss this topic, along with the many other medical aspects of the Clemens family’s life, than K. Patrick Ober, M.D., the author of Mark Twain and Medicine: “Any Mummery Will Cure.” Ober is Professor of Internal Medicine (Endocrinology and Metabolism) at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston- Salem, North Carolina. He is interested in the relationship between the humanities and the practice of medicine, and he has written about the dehumanizing properties of the electronic medical record. He is an internationally recognized Mark Twain scholar, and along with Mark Twain and Medicine has published many other commentaries on Twain and medicine. Ober has been recognized as one of the “Best Doctors in America” on repeated occasions. He was nominated for the 2007 Humanism in Medicine Award of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

He will be the fifth interviewee in Trouble at Home, the online series that, for the moment, is taking on the role of the museum’s beloved 10-year-old series The Trouble Begins at 5:30. Dr. Ober will be interviewed by Mark Twain House historian and founder of the Trouble Begins series Steve Courtney. This program takes place on July 9 at 5:30pm EST. It is free to attend, though while registering for the event, the Hartford House hopes you’ll consider contributing what you’d call a fair ticket price.

Click here for registration information.

All previous 2020 Trouble at Home conversations can be found in the CMTS Trouble Begins Archive.

CMTS Announces Participants of the 2020 Park Church Summer Lecture Series

Please note:  In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, CMTS has taken precautionary measures to move all lectures from the Barn at Quarry Farm to online at MarkTwainStudies.org. Presenters have agreed to record their lectures and make their talks available at the “Trouble Begins Archive.” Stay safe, everyone.

Wednesday, July 15

“Twains Meet”

Max Cavitch, University of Pennsylvania

Samuel Clemens as a Youth

What kinds of self-encounter get memorialized in Mark Twain’s vast and long-secreted Autobiography? Mark Twain has a lot of fun with the play of self-representation, while also wrestling seriously with the challenges of writing both from and against the point of view of his mediatized images. This lecture explores how Twain made and re-made himself into an object of regard—both in living his life and in writing about it—against the backdrop of a nascent culture of mass publicity increasingly defined by photography. Even as a youngster, Samuel Clemens seems to have understood that, against widely shared confidence in photography’s indexical relation to the “real,” it also had the potential to manipulate appearances in a culture that was increasingly riven by antithetical commitments to publicity (the transparency and knowability of the workings of an open society of equals) and to privacy (individual control over public access to one’s own identity and experience). As he grew to become one of the first modern celebrities, Twain continued to watch as America’s democratic culture became more and more dependent on the mechanical reproduction of photographic images, both to expand and to distort popular perception of things “as they really are.”

Max Cavitch is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also an affiliated faculty member of the programs in Comparative Literature, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, and Psychoanalytic Studies. He is the author of American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman (2007) and of numerous essays on American and African American Literature, Animal Studies, Cinema Studies, Poetry and Poetics, and Psychoanalytic Studies. His new edition of Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days is forthcoming in the Oxford World’s Classics series. Presently, he is completing a comprehensive study of autobiographical writing, called Passing Resemblances.


Wednesday, July 22

“Why We Who Have Dedicated Our Lives to Mark Twain Studies Must Now Interleave His Life, His Works, and His Time with a 21st Century Lens for Teachers and Students”

Jocelyn A. Chadwick, Harvard University Graduate School of Education

Jocelyn A. Chadwick (right of center holding the girl in the red coat) with Students

As scholars we were and are still being trained and taught to focus our work and research inside of ourselves for dissemination among like-minded colleagues. Essentially, we are experts talking to experts, sharing ideas and discoveries. . . . We are also teachers. Why should we even consider rethinking “how we do business?” This lecture explores four key relevant areas that we who study Mark Twain Studies must rethink, reimagine, and, yes, learn anew how to teach and share the texts—primary/secondary and the personal narratives—if Mark Twain’s Studies are to survive within this century: Generation Z, DisruptTexts, Virtual Learning and Using Primary/Secondary Resources, and Relevance to Us. The very survival of Mark Twain Studies within the elementary-high school classrooms throughout this country—the United States of America—stands on a precarious and fracturing precipice. We no longer can afford to stand aloof, observing and commenting solely in articles. Our audience who must, must, read the articles are classrooms teachers. And we, too, must transitionally extend the conversation well-beyond the article-page to conversations where we listen to teachers and students, exploring, discovering, and learning with them.

Jocelyn A. Chadwick is a life-long English teacher and international scholar. Formerly, a full-time professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, she now lectures occasionally and conducts seminars there.  She has published numerous articles and books with one in progress, Writing for Life: Using Literature to Teach Writing, She was invited to the White House as panel member for the series, Celebrating America’s Authors. Current projects include PBS American Masters, PBS The Great American Read, a new book series for the Folger Shakespeare Library, recurring blogs for Larry Ferlazzo in Education Week, consultant for Center for Mark Twain Studies, and Pearson/Savvas, Expert Advice Contributor for NBC TODAY Parenting Team.


Wednesday, July 29

“Between Spectacle and Structure: Mark Twain’s Anti-Imperialism”  

Stephen Pasqualina, University of Nevada, Reno

“The White Man’s World” 
by Daniel Carter Beard, published in 
Following the Equator (1897)

In a moment when systemic racism has recently gained heightened visibility in the US, this talk explores how Mark Twain grappled with the difficulties of thinking systemically, of comprehending political structures that exceed individual experience. In his anti-imperialist writings, Twain registers that the difficulty of grasping structures lies in the limitations of sight, the sense most often associated with knowledge in modern Europe and the US. From around 1880 until his death in 1910, Twain explored various technological strategies for enfolding deep temporal and spatial structures into visual experience. These uses of “spectacle,” rooted in visual technologies that produce a false but powerful sense of immediacy, included a history board game, a history roadway game, and photography. Twain’s experiments with seemingly anti-historical visual technologies provide important parallels and lessons for our own uses of digital technologies in coming to terms with the relations between police brutality against Black Americans today and the long transnational history of anti-Blackness.

Stephen Pasqualina is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Nevada, Reno. His current book project, Mechanical Failure: Modernism, Technology, and the Mediation of History, examines the role of speed and visual media technologies in the US modernist historical imaginary. Work related to this project has recently appeared in Modernism/modernity, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, Public Books, and MarkTwainStudies.org.


The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded in January 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by the Langdon family. 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.

Mark Twain (left of center with a light-colored coat) in front of the Park Church

Founded in 1846 by a group of abolitionists, The Park Church has been a strong presence in Elmira’s history and some of its congregation were close friends and family members to Mark Twain.  Known for its striking architectural features, The Park Church contained Elmira’s first public library and has a long history of charitable service to the Elmira community.  Currently, it is a United Church of Christ open and affirming congregation, welcoming all people to worship and participate in its communal life, regardless of ethnic origin, race, class, age, ability, gender, or sexual orientation.

Hartford House Hosts Conversation about Mark Twain’s Granddaughter

One of the sad stories that accompanies the tale of Mark Twain comes in the aftermath of his life– the tale of the granddaughter he never knew, Nina Gabrilowitsch, who died in 1965 after battling severe addiction problems for years. Nina was the daughter of Clara Clemens, the only child to survive her father.

Nina Gabrilowitsch, from the Mark Twain House and Museum

Independent scholar Alan Rankin, learned of Gabrilowitsch in a roundabout way: In 1992, a friend inherited the 1924 diary of a 13-year-old girl, and though Rankin was charmed and fascinated by the life portrayed in it, he didn’t make the connection to the Clemens family until much later. Rankin has written an extensive essay about his journey learning about Nina Gabrilowitsch for the Center for Mark Twain Studies.

On Thursday, June 25, at 5:30 p.m., Rankin will be interviewed by Steve Courtney, Mark Twain House & Museum historian, as part of the online “Trouble at Home” series. The series maintains the insight, flavor and humor of “The Trouble Begins at 5:30,” the museum’s decade-long lecture series.

Rankin is working on a book focusing on Gabrilowitsch’s life in the 1920s, which he calls an “overlooked and generally happy period in the lives of the surviving Clemens family.” He sees Gabrilowitsch as worthy of study in her own right: “Her charming, literate teen diaries reveal the lasting impact of Samuel Clemens on the daily lives of those who survived him.”

Alan Rankin

A lifelong writer, Rankin has worked at various times as a journalist, reviewer, online content creator, and copy editor. He currently writes a biographical column for Renaissance magazine. He presented his work on Gabrilowitsch at the 2019 Clemens Conference in Hannibal, Missouri, and he is a 2020 Quarry Farm Fellow at the Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, New York.

This program is free to attend, though while registering for the event, the Mark Twain House and Museum hopes registrants will consider contributing what they would call a fair ticket price.  Register here!

Hartford House Hosts Conversation About Mark Twain and Spiritualism

The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, CT will be holding its third “Trouble at Home” series at the Hartford house. This Thursday, June 11, at 5:30 p.m. EDT, Steve Courtney, Curatorial Special Projects Coordinator at the Hartford House, will be interviewing Assistant Curator Mallory Howard and educator Jason Scappaticci on “Mark Twain and Spiritualism” – how the 19th century movement affected America, the neighborhood of Nook Farm, and Clemens and his family in particular. Howard and Scappaticci have made themselves experts in the subject, and lecture frequently in Connecticut libraries and historical societies.

This talk is open to the public at no charge. More details and the link to register are here:

https://marktwainhouse.org/TroubleAtHomeSpiritualism

(An important note to overseas attendees: When prompted to enter an American ZIP code, just leave the space blank.)

Lecture from Lawrence Howe concludes the 2020 Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series

The audio for the lecture can be found HERE.

Images for the lecture can be found HERE.

Samuel Clemens with Isabel Lyon and Ralph Ashcroft (circa 1908)

The lecture, “Scandal at Stormfield: Mark Twain’s ‘Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript’,” is presented by Lawrence Howe of Roosevelt University in Chicago. In 1908, when Sam Clemens moved into his Italianate mansion, Stormfield, in Redding, Connecticut, he seemed to have turned the page on his sadness of recent years and begun a happy chapter. About a year later, this happiness was disrupted by a scandal: his personal secretary Isabel Lyon and his business manager Ralph Ashcroft betrayed his trust. Mark Twain addressed their deceptions in his final text, the “Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript,” a tortured piece of writing in which he struggles to come to terms with their treachery. In this presentation, Howe will offer an account of the events and Twain’s text that disputes criticism of the manuscript as evidence of his irascibility and exhausted talent.  Instead, Howe will show how the text’s compositional problems provide insight into Clemens’s vulnerability in the last stage of his life. In light of evidence proving that the trusted couple exploited him, the text documents a crime that we now recognize as elder abuse. Twain’s emotional tone in this text signals how unsettling this nearly disastrous episode was for him. Indeed, the Ashcroft-Lyon manuscript is his attempt to regain control of his life by the means he knew best—through narrative.  

Lawrence Howe is Professor of English and Film Studies at Roosevelt University, is a member of the 2019 class of Quarry Farm Fellows, past-president of the Mark Twain Circle of America, and editor of Studies in American Humor.  His publications include Mark Twain and Money: Language, Capital, and Culture, edited with Henry Wonham, and Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Novelistic Discourse. And he is currently at work on a book on Mark Twain and property. He has lectured throughout the United States and Europe on Mark Twain and other topics in American culture. His testimonial about Quarry Farm can be found HERE.

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. 

The audio for the lecture can be found HERE.

Images for the lecture can be found HERE.

Hartford House Host Conversation with Historical Impersonator of Susy Clemens, Next Conversation Scheduled

Grace DiModugno as Susy Clemens

The story of Olivia Susan Clemens is an important one in Samuel Clemens’s — Mark Twain’s — life. “Susy,” the eldest of his and Livy Clemens’s daughters, early on showed talent for writing, drama, and music. “Like other children she was blithe and happy, full of play,” her father wrote, “unlike other the other average of children she was at times much given to retiring within herself and trying to search out the hidden meanings of deep things that make the puzzle and pathos of human existence.” Her death in her 20s was a deeply tragic moment for the family.

The Living History program at The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut features several historical interpreters who play the role of Susy in her teens — an earlier and happier time, when the family lived in the Hartford house. Among these is historian and actress Grace DiModugno.

Like all the house’s interpreters, DiModugno has been rigorously trained in Twainian matters, along with the skills particular to her role as Susy. On Thursday, May 28th, at 5:30 p.m. she was the second interviewee in “Trouble at Home,” the online series that, for the moment, is taking on the role of the museum’s beloved 10-year-old series “The Trouble Begins at 5:30.” (The series title plays off Twain’s own lecture posters, which advertised “The Trouble Begins at Eight.”)

DiModugno graduated from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 2018. Her degree is in both English and History. She is currently employed at both The Mark Twain House & Museum and the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co. Of her Living History role, she says, “I find it a fantastic experience to combine both my love of history and my love of acting.” She was interviewed by Mark Twain House historian and founder of the “Trouble Begins” series Steve Courtney.

The next event, on Thursday, June 11, at 5;30 p.m. EDT, takes on the tale of Twain’s interest in spiritualism, as Steve Courntey chats with two people who have lectured together extensively on that subject and others: Mallory Howard, our Assistant Curator, who organized an important exhibition at the Hartford House on the subject a few  years back; and Jason Scappaticci, a local educator and historian.

A Scandal at Stormfield Concludes the Spring Trouble Begins Lectures

The spring portion of the 2019-2020 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, concludes on Wednesday, June 3.  The lecture may be accessed for free on marktwainstudies.org.

Sam Clemens with Isabel Lyon and Ralph Ashcroft (circa 1908)

The lecture, “Scandal at Stormfield: Mark Twain’s ‘Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript’,” will be presented by Lawrence Howe of Roosevelt University in Chicago. In 1908, when Sam Clemens moved into his Italianate mansion, Stormfield, in Redding, Connecticut, he seemed to have turned the page on his sadness of recent years and begun a happy chapter. About a year later, this happiness was disrupted by a scandal: his personal secretary Isabel Lyon and his business manager Ralph Ashcroft betrayed his trust. Mark Twain addressed their deceptions in his final text, the “Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript,” a tortured piece of writing in which he struggles to come to terms with their treachery. In this presentation, Howe will offer an account of the events and Twain’s text that disputes criticism of the manuscript as evidence of his irascibility and exhausted talent.  Instead, Howe will show how the text’s compositional problems provide insight into Clemens’s vulnerability in the last stage of his life. In light of evidence proving that the trusted couple exploited him, the text documents a crime that we now recognize as elder abuse. Twain’s emotional tone in this text signals how unsettling this nearly disastrous episode was for him. Indeed, the Ashcroft-Lyon manuscript is his attempt to regain control of his life by the means he knew best—through narrative.  

Lawrence Howe is Professor of English and Film Studies at Roosevelt University, is a member of the 2019 class of Quarry Farm Fellows, past-president of the Mark Twain Circle of America, and editor of Studies in American Humor.  His publications include Mark Twain and Money: Language, Capital, and Culture, edited with Henry Wonham, and Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Novelistic Discourse. And he is currently at work on a book on Mark Twain and property. He has lectured throughout the United States and Europe on Mark Twain and other topics in American culture. His testimonial about Quarry Farm can be found HERE.

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. 

Laura Skandera Trombley’s Trouble Begins Lecture Now Available

The audio for the lecture can be found HERE.

The images for the lecture can be found HERE.

“I Wept”
Illustration from The Innocents Abroad, Chpt. 50

The lecture, “Riding with Mark Twain,” will be presented by Dr. Laura Skandera Trombley, incoming president of Southwestern University in Texas. According to Trombley, “I was about to trek into the desert to try to find what Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, had experienced over one hundred and fifty years ago on his foray through the Holy Land. Clemens had signed up because he was desperate for a future he couldn’t imagine. He had arrived at this juncture exhausted from fighting for a sense of self-worth and fearing that whatever he had managed to accomplish would vanish unnoticed. As contrarian as it might appear, he was convinced that traveling to Europe and then galloping through Palestine was his best opportunity to secure a lucrative future. As for me, I was longing for a feeling of intensity, a strengthened connection, a heightening of awareness, a clearer pathway. I figured I wasn’t the first person to seek enlightenment in the Judean Desert and neither was Clemens. We would be, together, Innocents Abroad.”

Trombley, in addition to being the forthcoming president of Southwestern University, is president emerita of Pitzer College, where she served for 13 years, and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Previously, she served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Trombley is the author of five books and a number of articles. She is the recipient of many awards for her scholarship, including being recognized by the Mark Twain Journal as a Legacy Scholar in spring 2019 for her efforts in rehabilitating the intellectual reputations of the women who surrounded Mark Twain. In 2017, she won the Louis J. Budd Award for her contributions to Mark Twain Studies. Trombley graduated summa cum laude with a Master of Arts in English from Pepperdine University. She received her doctorate in English from the University of Southern California.

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. 

The audio for the lecture can be found HERE.

The images for the lecture can be found HERE.

Hartford House Hosts Conversation with Kerry Driscoll, Mark Twain Scholar; New Conversation Scheduled for Thursday

On Thursday, May 14, 2020, the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford CT., hosted its first virtual “Trouble Begins at 5:30,” entitled “The Trouble at Home.” The event featured a conversation between Steve Courtney, Curatorial Special Projects Coordinator at the Hartford Mark Twain House, and Dr. Kerry Driscoll, Associate Editor at the Mark Twain Papers and Project at the University of California, Berkeley, and Professor Emeritus at the University of St. Joseph, Hartford, CT.

Dr. Kerry Driscoll

The conversation included discussions about the nature of the Mark Twain Papers and Project, Dr. Driscoll’s own work, and a range of other Twainian subjects.

The recorded conversation can be found HERE. Please note that to view the talk, each person must register with “Crowdcast,” an interactive, live conversation, web-based platform.

The next event, on Thursday, May 28, at 5;30 p.m. EST, will focus on Susy Clemens whose father hailed her “vivacity, enthusiasm, precocious wisdom, wit, elegance, penetration, nobility of character.” The interview guest will be Grace DiModugno of the Mark Twain House and Museum’s Living History historical interpreter staff. She takes visitors around the Hartford house in costume, recreating Susy’s life there for them. Her experience doing that, along with a natural talent for absorbing and interpreting information, is sure to provide a terrific experience for those visitors. She will also relay what she has learned about Susy, and some tales of visitors and their curious ways.

The link to register for Thursday’s event can be found here. As mentioned before, to view the talk, each person must register with “Crowdcast.”

Spring Virtual ‘Trouble Begins’ Continues May 27

The spring portion of the 2019-2020 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues on Wednesday, May 27.  All four lectures are free and available to the public on marktwainstudies.org.

“I Wept”
Illustration from The Innocents Abroad, Chpt. 50

The lecture, “Riding with Mark Twain,” will be presented by Dr. Laura Skandera Trombley, incoming president of Southwestern University in Texas. According to Trombley, “I was about to trek into the desert to try to find what Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, had experienced over one hundred and fifty years ago on his foray through the Holy Land. Clemens had signed up because he was desperate for a future he couldn’t imagine. He had arrived at this juncture exhausted from fighting for a sense of self-worth and fearing that whatever he had managed to accomplish would vanish unnoticed. As contrarian as it might appear, he was convinced that travelling to Europe and then galloping through Palestine was his best opportunity to secure a lucrative future. As for me, I was longing for a feeling of intensity, a strengthened connection, a heightening of awareness, a clearer pathway. I figured I wasn’t the first person to seek enlightenment in the Judean Desert and neither was Clemens. We would be, together, Innocents Abroad.”

Trombley in addition to being the forthcoming president of Southwestern University, is president emerita of Pitzer College, where she served for 13 years, and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Previously, she served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Trombley is the author of five books and a number of articles. She is the recipient of many awards for her scholarship, including being recognized by the Mark Twain Journal as a Legacy Scholar in spring 2019 for her efforts in rehabilitating the intellectual reputations of the women who surrounded Mark Twain. In 2017, she won the Louis J. Budd Award for her contributions to Mark Twain Studies. Trombley graduated summa cum laude with a Master of Arts in English from Pepperdine University. She received her doctorate in English from the University of Southern California.

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.