Each year the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College welcomes a new class of Quarry Farm Fellows. These fellows receive a 2-4 week residency at Quarry Farm, as well as a stipend, to pursue research related to Mark Twain and his circle. If you are interested in applying for a Quarry Farm Fellowship, be on the lookout for the 2020 application, which will be posted here in the coming months. In the meantime, please join us in congratulating the ten scholars who will visit us this year.
Mark Baggett is Associate Professor of English and Law, Samford University and Cumberland School of Law. His teaching and research concentrates on American humor; American language and literature, particularly Mark Twain; Southern literature; and law and literature. His recent research on Twain’s use of legal rhetoric is an outgrowth of his teaching legal writing, now “Lawyering and Legal Reasoning,” at Cumberland since 1987. He contributed articles on legal issues in the Mark Twain Encyclopedia and is working on a book-length project on Mark Twain and the law, building on interdisciplinary research on Twain’s broad appropriation of legal rhetoric.
I propose to contextualize Twain’s legal fictions in nineteenth century movements and practices within the legal profession. Using Twain’s criteria for judging Shakespeare’s literary greatness in “Is Shakespeare Dead?”—whether Shakespeare was a lawyer who knew the “trade language” of the law—I will start by tracing the sources of his extensive knowledge of legal rhetoric. Twain’s engagements with the law are well documented, from his apprenticeships in legislative language, to his career covering court trials on the Territorial Enterprise, to his legal burlesques such as “Ye Sentimental Law Student” (the first use of the pseudonym “Mark Twain”), to the court trials in practically all of his longer works, and to his lifelong work on the copyright law. From the side of legal scholarship, however, there have been few applications of legal theory and practice to Mark Twain’s work and few, if any, full-length and studies of his attitudes toward the law. I hope to use the resources at Quarry Farm to explore the legal and political cultures that informed his life and work, and to study the degree to which his representations of the law reflect his attitudes toward the law and the American legal system and history. I propose to add a postscript of the ways the law continues to shape Mark Twain studies, including the evolution of the copyright law in recent decades, the persistent issues of censorship, and the reception of the legal community to Twain and his works.
Nathaniel Cadle is an Associate Professor of English at Florida International University. He is the author of The Mediating Nation: Late American Realism, Globalization, and the Progressive State, winner of the 2015 SAMLA Studies Book Award, as well as essays on subjects ranging from the anti-imperial politics of W.E.B. Du Bois to the teaching of American literary realism. In addition to a 2019 Quarry Farm Fellowship, his current research project is supported by a 2019-20 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
My current book project examines an important but largely forgotten literary movement at the turn of the twentieth century known as the Romantic Revival. The renewed popularity of such old-fashioned, “romantic” genres as historical novels and sensational fiction caught the publishing industry off guard and gave rise to the first bestseller lists, which helped industry insiders keep up with rapid changes in taste. While the implausible plots and one-dimensional characters of romance seem antithetical to the aesthetics of realism—Henry James doubted that any nineteenth-century author could inhabit the minds of characters who lived centuries earlier, and William Dean Howells dismissed the movement as an exercise in false nostalgia—nearly every major American realist wrote at least one romance, including both James and Howells. By contextualizing these romances written by realists within the wider Romantic Revival, my project demonstrates a coherence among novels that are often dismissed as outliers in a given author’s body of work. During my time at Quarry Farm, I will finish my chapter on the historical romances of the 1880s and 1890s, including those by Mark Twain, with particular attention paid to Twain’s seemingly singular Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896).
Larry Howe is president of the Mark Twain Circle of America, Professor of English and Film Studies at Roosevelt University, and editor of Studies in American Humor. He is the author of Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority and co-editor with Harry Wonham of Mark Twain and Money: Language, Capital, and Culture.
“Mark Twain and America’s Ownership Society: Property and Its Discontents” applies strategies of New Economic Criticism to expose ambivalences between Samuel Clemens active embrace of the ideal of property in American culture and Mark Twain’s more jaundiced view of the responsibilities and consequences of ownership. Working through both details of Clemens’s life and of Twain’s writings, the project seeks 1) to advance our understanding of Mark Twain’s insight into the economic basis of American culture; 2) to correct some long-standing myths about Samuel Clemens as a failed businessman; and 3) to expose the complex rhetorical intersections of literature and economics.
Don James McLaughlin
Don James McLaughlin is an assistant professor of English at The University of Tulsa specializing in 19th-century and early American literature. He earned his Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania in July 2017. He completed his dissertation “Infectious Affect: The Phobic Imagination in American Literature” under the direction of Heather Love, Max Cavitch, Nancy Bentley, and Chi-ming Yang. The dissertation (now first book project) provides an intellectual history of phobia in American print culture as a medical diagnosis, political metaphor, and aesthetic sensation in the 18th and 19th centuries. In January 2016, an essay from the project was published in The New Republic, titled “The Anti-Slavery Roots of Today’s -PhobiaObsession.” Two additional essays from the project are currently forthcoming in Literature and Medicine and J19: The Journal of 19th-Century Americanists. In 2018, Penn English awarded Don James the Diane Hunter Prize for Best Dissertation submitted during the 2017/18 academic year. In the summer of 2018, Don James was awarded the Hench Post-Dissertation Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society to support completion of his first book. His research has also been supported by a Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Dissertation Fellowship from the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and the Penn Humanities Forum.
During my residence at Quarry Farm, I will be writing a chapter in my first book project, titled Infectious Affect: The Phobic Imagination in American Literature, on Twain’s unfinished manuscript 3,000 Years among the Microbes, written in Dublin, New Hampshire, in 1905. This chapter puts Twain’s manuscript in dialogue with two major shifts in medical thought at the end of the nineteenth century: (1) the rise of microbiology, introducing a new discourse for articulating the relationship of bacteria and viruses to infectious disease, established largely by Louis Pasteur’s successes in vaccination; and (2) the emergence of an international psychiatric discourse revolving around mysophobia, meaning a dread of filth and contamination, which coincided with and drew momentum from the triumph of the germ theory of disease. Written from the perspective of a cholera germ named Huck who has infected a tramp named Blitzowski, 3,000 Years meditates on both discourses, exploring microbiology’s ramifications for human understandings of biology, agency, and subjectivity, while also pursuing a mysophobic aesthetic: a state of readerly repugnance generated by the landscape of infection and bodily functions, which Huck and his microbe friends have made their home.
Lisa McGunigal is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the English Department at the Pennsylvania State University, where she received her Ph.D. specializing in late nineteenth-century American literature. Her current book project argues that popular entertainments and cultural performances influenced the formation of American realist novels. She has published on the shared performance strategies between Mark Twain and the character of Huck Finn in The Mark Twain Annual and has an article forthcoming this year in American Literary Realism on the place of the literary salon in Henry Adams’s work.
“Considered a satirist, travel writer, and lecturer, Twain was rarely presented as a poet or appreciator of poetry to the public during his life—and still today many people assume an antagonistic relationship between Twain and verse. In fact, Twain penned 120 poems (the bulk being of a humorous nature) and was an avid reader and performer of Robert Browning’s works. Additionally, Twain was clearly familiar with the popular poets of his era as he frequently parodied them within his novels; he also wrote marginalia within poetry collections that he owned. I plan to contribute to the fields of Twain marginalia, Twain as editor, and his relationship with poetry by building an article around his poetry collections within his personal library. Focusing on grammar and writing style, Twain offers a commentary laced with snark. I will connect this approach to other instances of Twain writing between and within the lines of “bad” poetry.”
Linda A. Morris is Professor Emeritus, Department of English, University of California, Davis. Her book-length studies include Women’s Humor in the Age of Gentility: The Life and Works of Frances Miriam Whitcher, American Women Humorists: Critical Essays (Ed.), and Gender Play in Mark Twain: Cross-Dressing and Transgression. She has written a number of essays about Mark Twain, including “What is Personal about Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc?”, “The Sources of Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc” (with Ronald Jenn), “Gender Bending as Childs’ Play,” “Identity Switching in Huckleberry Finn,” “Twice-Told Tales: Aunt Sally Phelps and the ‘Evasion’ in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “the Eloquent Silence in ‘Hellfire Hotchkiss’”, and an in-press essay on “Mark Twain and Sexuality,” for Mark Twain in Context.” Her essays on American women’s humor include “Good Food, Great Friends, Cold Beer: The Domestic Humor of Mary Lasswell,” “Domestic Manners of the Americans: A Transatlantic Phenomenon,” and most recently “Roz Chast: From Whimsy to Transgression.” She was the recipient of “The Charlie Award” by the American Humor Studies Association, and “The Olivia Langdon Clemens Award” by the Mark Twain Circle of America.
My project is to write a comprehensive, I hope definitive, essay about Susy Clemens. While much has been written about Susy in passing, there has been no in-depth analysis of her life. We know that Susy occupied a unique place in the Clemens family, both as a living, eldest daughter, and in the aftermath of her unexpected death, but I want to focus as well on Susy herself. In assessing the impact of her death on her parents and sisters, I want to distinguish more fully those effects on her mother, Livy, and her father, effects that I believe have been conflated.
Germaine to this study will be the many stories about her as a precocious child, but also her bid for greater independence as a young woman. Not incidentally, Quarry Farm plays a special role throughout. I will examine her own writing, her biography of her father, “Papa,” her dramatic writing and acting, and her relationship with fellow Bryn Mawr student Louise Brownell.
Walter G. Ritchie, Jr. is an independent decorative arts scholar and architectural historian specializing in nineteenth-century American domestic architecture, interiors, and furniture. He has written, lectured, and taught courses on a variety of decorative arts subjects, in addition to organizing decorative arts exhibitions for museums and researching and developing furnishings plans for the restoration of period rooms in historic house museums. Prior to becoming an independent consultant, Mr. Ritchie held the position of director of furniture and decorative arts at several auction houses. He also served as executive director and curator of a number of historic house museums. After earning a bachelor’s degree in the history of art and architecture from Carnegie-Mellon University, he pursued graduate studies in the history of decorative arts at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum/Parson’s School of Design Master’s Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design. Mr. Ritchie is currently researching and writing a book on the history, furniture, and interior decoration of Pottier & Stymus, one of the leading cabinetmaking and decorating firms in New York City during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Mark Twain included in his novel Life on the Mississippi a chapter titled “The House Beautiful,” in which he described in almost excruciating detail the furnishings and decorations typically found in the parlors of upper-class homes in the South. While the image he conjured was accurate, his tone was disparaging and his use of the title, ironic. The type of interior detailed by Twain was woefully out of fashion when he wrote his memoir about his personal experiences as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River. The title he sardonically chose for the chapter was no doubt adopted from a highly popular book that discussed the period’s most advanced theories regarding household furniture and interior decoration, The House Beautiful (1878), which advocated design principles that, if followed closely, would result in tasteful and aesthetically pleasing rooms characterized by simplicity, balance, and harmony. By the time Twain published Life on the Mississippi in 1883, he was already intimately acquainted with the ideas associated with what came to be known as the “Household Art Movement,” allowing the tenets of design reform to guide the decoration and furnishing of his own home in Hartford, Connecticut.
Preliminary research into the maturation of Samuel and Oliva Clemens as “aesthetes” who followed the dictates of the Household Art Movement was inspired by my investigation and analysis of the surviving late-nineteenth-century furnishings and interior decoration at Quarry Farm in the summer of 2017. A close examination of the Quarry Farm interiors brought to light many parallels with the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut. Similar types and styles of furniture and interior architectural decoration, while simpler and less expensive than those in the Mark Twain House, are found in the rooms of Quarry Farm, indicating that there was most likely an exchange of ideas between the Clemenses and Susan and Theodore Crane about how to tastefully and artistically decorate and furnish the home.
The purpose of my project is to explore in greater depth how Samuel and Olivia Clemens familiarized themselves with the reform principles of the Household Art Movement. As part of my research, I shall attempt to identify the published material—including periodicals, trade journals, and home decorating advice books—as well as the designers, purveyors of household furnishings, and actual domestic interiors that influenced the Clemenses’ development from mid-Victorian householders with commonplace tastes to sophisticated cosmopolites who adroitly created an aesthetically advanced home that reflected the most fashionable theories of the day. Consideration will also be given to the similarities between the interiors of Quarry Farm, as they appeared in the late nineteenth century, and those of Mark Twain’s house in Hartford, and how ideas regarding the creation of “artistic” interiors were exchanged between the Clemenses and the Cranes.
Todd Nathan Thompson is Professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he also serves as Assistant Chair of the English Department. He is also Treasurer-Secretary of the American Humor Studies Association. Todd is author of The National Joker: Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Satire (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015). His work on political satire and pre-1900 American literature has also appeared in Scholarly Editing, Early American Literature, ESQ, Nineteenth-Century Prose, Journal of American Culture, Teaching American Literature, and elsewhere. He currently is at work on a book project entitled Savage Laughter: Nineteenth-Century American Humor and the Pacific, 1840-1880.
Mark Twain cuts a large and persistent figure throughout Savage Laughter. First, I will analyze Twain’s jokes about cannibalism in Chapter 3, “‘Cheering for Ye, Cannibal’: The Politics of Boiled Missionaries,” which will feature cultural close readings of “cannibal and boiled missionary” jokes (and, sometimes, accompanying cartoons) that were ubiquitous throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. My analysis will demonstrate how such jokes express, and attempt to laugh away, anxieties about Pacific Islanders’ otherness, thus reinforcing stereotypes and reproducing the unease of contact. In making (and mocking) blanket accusations of cannibalism, the jokes juxtapose for comic effect Pacific Islander and Western epistemologies, as represented through alleged cannibalism and western travelers’ genteel (or similarly savage) reactions to it. But these jokes also allow their tellers and auditors to pithily, and without much risk, question cultural imperialism by comically celebrating the demise of missionaries. That is, there are two butts to every cannibal and missionary joke: the cannibal, whom we laugh at in disgust and terror at an inhumane act, and the missionary, who gets his comeuppance for cultural and religious imposition.
I will examine other elements of Twain’s travel writing in Chapter 4, “Pacific in Repose: Genial Travel Writing and the Lure of the Polynesia,” which focuses on the centrality of comic geniality to Americans’ visions of the Pacific and its inhabitants. This chapter explores how popular, humorous, travel writing about the Pacific by Herman Melville and his literary inheritors—including Twain, Edward T. Perkins, Conflagration Jones, and others—shaped a persistently jovial and inviting image of the Pacific Islands through their easygoing humor. Certainly all these humorists set out to puncture their readers’ preconceptions as much as they add to them; but even so, as their genial style lent to their depictions of the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Hawaii an alluring sense of comic repose that augmented earlier and more poetic depictions of the South Seas as an Eden. At the same time, I will argue, the good-natured self-searching of their authorial voices led them to challenge imperialist and missionary assumptions about “civilized” superiority over “savage” innocence. I will investigate the comic strategies these humorists deploy in their travel writings—particularly self-effacement, satiric levelling, comic foils, physical comedy, and sarcastic irony—to show how they leveraged the ambivalence of social humor to stoke Americans’ interest in Pacific Islands while (at times) defending Pacific Islanders from “other”-ing stereotypes that were intimately tied to Americans’ imperialist urges.
I will also treat Twain somewhat more briefly in Chapter 5, “‘Didn’t our people laugh?’: Humor as Resistance,” in which I consider Twain’s account of half-Hawaiian Bill Ragsdale’s subversive translations, and in Chapter 6, “Collecting the Pacific,” in which I perform a reading of Twain’s character Brown’s ruinous appetite for collecting specimens from the Hawaiian Islands. In addition to studying the travel writing of canonical figures like Twain and Melville, Savage Laughter investigates how and why American humor—most notably Southwestern almanac humor, Yankee humor, sea yarns, joke books, newspapers and periodicals, burlesque museum exhibits, and blackface minstrelsy—appropriated (imagined) South Seas geography and culture into its comic myth-making. It also seeks to analyze humorous moments in literary, missionary, and travel writing to detail the subversive power of Pacific Islanders’ comic resistance to imperialism.
Sunny Yang is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Houston, where she specializes in American and multiethnic American literature of the long nineteenth century. After receiving her PhD in English with a certificate in Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, she was a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University. She is currently completing her first book manuscript, Fictions of Territoriality, with the support of fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the American Association of University Women.
Fictions of Territoriality examines how U.S. national boundaries and racial hierarchies were consolidated and contested from 1844 to 1914. Analyzing legal and cultural documents from four sites of study (extraterritorial cities in China, the Panama Canal Zone, the Mexican Cession, and Indian Territory), the book uncovers the competing narratives about race and geography that structured both U.S. imperial governance and the alternatives proposed by anti-imperialists and writers of color. At Quarry Farm, Sunny will revise the first chapter of this manuscript, which centers on Ah Sin (1876),a convoluted frontier melodrama that Twain co-authored with Bret Harte. Though widely dismissed as a literary and financial failure (and even blamed for the demise of the authors’ friendship), the play has generated some critical attention because of the central role played by its titular Chinese character. While this scholarship has importantly situated the melodrama in contemporaneous American debates on race, it has interpreted Ah Sin through an exclusively domestic lens that foregrounds its critique of U.S. attitudes and policies towards Chinese immigrants. By examining Ah Sin alongside Twain’s commentary on Sino-American foreign relations (and specifically, the policy of extraterritoriality), my chapter reveals the transpacific concerns that animate the play and offer new insights into Twain’s complex anti-imperialism at this moment in his career.
Melissa Scholes Young
Melissa Scholes Young is the author of the novel Flood, winner of the Literary Fiction Category for the 2017 Best Book Award. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, and Poets & Writers. She’s a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and Editor of Grace in Darkness: D.C. Women Writers. She’s an Associate Professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C.
Since Flood’s publication, I’ve been researching and writing on the topic of “Reimagining Becky Thatcher.” Often girls who grow up in Mark Twain’s boyhood home, as did I, aspire to the portrait of Becky Thatcher in our town’s annual pageant, even when it doesn’t fit. In my debut novel, set in Hannibal, Missouri during and after the 500-year flood of 1993, I reimagine Becky Thatcher through a female friendship more akin to Tom and Huck’s famous mischief. Flood’s protagonist, Laura Brooks returns home to wrestle with the story she’s been telling herself in contrast to her family’s expectations. Her high school sweetheart, Sammy McGuire, is narrated through Laura’s limited point of view. Some readers have wished my characters would behave themselves better as they are often more comfortable with the ‘boys will be boys’ story Clemens celebrated in America’s Hometown.
In 1895, Samuel Clemens wrote in his notebook:
We easily perceive that the people furtherest from civilization are the ones where equality between man and woman are furtherest apart—and we consider this one of the signs of savagery. But we are so stupid that we can’t see that we thus plainly admit that no civilization can be perfect until exact equality between man and woman is included.
Are Clemens’ beliefs in equality reflected in his fictional portrayals of females? Especially lacking is Becky Thatcher, who was based on his first sweetheart and lifelong friend, Laura Hawkins. Becky is statically portrayed through Tom Sawyer’s adoring eyes. She flips her blond braids and alternates as flirt and damsel in distress. The redeeming quality that intoxicates a young Tom is Becky’s looks. Becky is stuck undeveloped on the page in a cameo starring Clemens’ youthful assessment of a permissive culture for boys and a strict society for girls.
Of course the context of Clemens’ drafting of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876, almost twenty years before he penned his declaration of equality in his notebook, matters too. It is a nostalgic examination of his own childhood. His daughters were toddlers when he wrote it, and he was more interested in entertaining them with tame stories than in considering their futures as females in world that might not receive their talents with an equal appreciation. Clemens had work to do and his future characters, such as Eve, Joan of Arc, and Roxy, demonstrate his development.
Clemens imagined a civilization where men and women are equal and my hope as a creative writer is that modern literature can create narratives that consider where we’ve been and what we hope to be through complicated characters that reflect our true potential and challenge readers to imagine a more just world, even as we live and write in a flawed one. My time in residence at Quarry Farm will allow more research into Becky’s portrayal in comparison to other contemporary characters in literature and to consider how this influence is reflected in my next novel.