CMTS Announces the 2020 Fall “Trouble Begins” Lecture Series Lineup

The fall portion of the 2020-2021 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies features four online lectures, with the first event set for Wednesday, October 7.  All four lectures are free and available to the public on

The first lecture, “Mark Twain Meets Dracula,” will be presented by Mark Dawidziak, an independent scholar. Does Mark Twain make a cameo appearance in Dracula, Bram Stoker’s landmark horror novel published in May 1897? Is he lurking somewhere in the shadows of that incredible 161,000-word book? Is there a moment in this epic vampire tale when main-street Hannibal intersects with the Borgo Pass? Well, at the very least, best evidence suggests that the reports of Mark Twain being mentioned in the novel are not greatly exaggerated.

Image from A Book for An Hour (1873)

On Wednesday, October 14, the Series continues with “‘Viral Twain: The Reprinting of Mark Twain in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers,” presented by Avery Blankenship, a PhD Student in the English Department at Northeastern University. Through the use of the Wright American Fiction archive of nearly 3,000 American novels and story collections published 1851-1875 and existing reprint detection methods developed by the Viral Texts project, identifying the trajectory of novels published within this time frame has become possible. Often, the circulation and spread of fiction through the newspaper occurred in the form of brief excerpts – sometimes without authorial attributions or titles. Twain also made use of the ambiguous nature of newspaper circulation. 

The Series continues on Wednesday, October 21 with an interview with Susan K. Harris about her new book Mark Twain, The World, and Me. Harris, a distinguished professor emerita at the University of Kansas, follows Twain’s last lecture tour as he wound his way through the British Empire in 1895–1896. Deftly blending history, biography, literary criticism, reportage, and travel memoir, Harris gives readers a unique take on one of America’s most widely studied writers. Structured as a series of interlocking essays written in the first person, this engaging volume draws on Twain’s insights into the histories and cultures of Australia, India, and South Africa and weaves them into timely reflections on the legacies of those countries today.

The fall portion of the Series wraps up on Wednesday, October 28 with “Mark Twain, James Redpath, & The Vigilante Origins of U.S. Police,” presented by Matt Seybold, assistant professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College.  During the mid-1860s, Mark Twain waged a prolonged and inflammatory media war against the San Francisco Police. By some accounts his campaign led directly to the replacement of the SFPD’s longtime Commissioner, as well as broader reforms which were later adopted by departments across the nation. During the same years Twain was excoriating the SFPD, his future publicist, James Redpath, was participating in the occupation and reconstruction of Confederate Charleston. In his talk, Seybold uses Twain and Redpath as lenses for comparing the history of policing in these two U.S. cities, separated by nearly 3,000 miles, as well as by contrasting demographics, economies, and cultural institutions.  

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.