CMTS Announces the Inaugural Michael J. Kiskis Quarry Farm Fellow

Michael Kissane

In honor of his memory and legacy as a Mark Twain Studies scholar, the Michael J. Kiskis Quarry Farm Fellowship is intended to support emerging scholars and writers participating in the Quarry Farm Fellowship program.

The Michael J. Kiskis Quarry Farm Fellowship was established to honor Michael’s legacy as a scholar and a teacher.  Through the resources of this fellowship, the Center for Mark Twain Studies will continue the legacy of Michael J. Kiskis, by supporting the critical and creative work of emerging scholars in the field of Mark Twain Studies. You can learn about the Michael J. Kiskis Fellowship Program HERE.

The recipient of the inaugural Michael J. Kiskis Quarry Farm Fellowship is Charline Jao.

Charline Jao is a PhD candidate in the Department of Literatures in English at Cornell University. Her research broadly focuses on grief, print culture, and gender in the American nineteenth century. Her dissertation, “Early Lost,” looks at the temporality of child death and separation in texts by nineteenth-century American women writers, with an emphasis on events not easily absorbed into sentimentalism or nation-making such as infanticide and abandonment. Jao is the creator of two digital humanities projects: Periodical Poets, a catalogue of poetry published in New York City periodicals run by Black editors in the nineteenth century, and No Stain of Tears and Blood, a collection of material related to the abolitionist free labor/free produce movement. Her research has been supported by the Cornell Rural Humanities Initiative, The Center for Mark Twain Studies, and the American Antiquarian Society.

Charline Jao provided CMTS with a description of her 2024 Mark Twain Studies project which she will work on while at Quarry Farm.

Between November 7, 1870 and June 2, 1872, Samuel and Olivia Clemens’ letters are filled with updates and reports on their firstborn son, Langdon, whose premature birth and constant sickness filled both parents with constant anxiety. The couple’s worry would eventually prove true, as Langdon died of diathermia at nineteen-months old – a death made even more tragic for the Clemens’s inability to travel to Elmira for Langdon’s burial. My proposed project, titled “‘I was not due here’: Samuel L. Clemens’ Letters for Langdon,” examines Samuel Clemens as a father, reflecting on Clemens’ understanding of and encounter with Langdon’s precarious infancy and the significance of Quarry Farm during his bereavement. Thus, I turn to Clemens’ Langdon letters, reports where Clemens writes from the perspective of his infant son, which combine humor and imagination with a desire to report on the state of the family. My project argues that these letters which recount the Clemens’s first experience with parenthood provide a less-explored archive and insights into studies of Twain and childhood. By looking at microfilm of these letters and texts for and about children (and childhood more broadly) from Clemens’ library, I aim to consider the way that narrative and the imitation of infant “language” (particularly speech and the act of writing) functions in these letters.

Charline Jao has given a lecture for CMTS as part of the 2022 Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series. You can watch her talk HERE:

  • Charline Jao, “A Yankee in Kennedy’s Court: The Humorous American Story and The Mark Twain Prize” (May 11, 2022 – Quarry Farm Barn)