The 2023 Park Church Summer Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) continued with its second lecture on Wednesday, August 2 at The Park Church (208 W. Gray Street, Elmira). The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website.
Bernard J. Dobski presented ““Twain’s Machiavellian Princess: Personal Recollections and Political Philosophy.”
While Twain has been the subject of some scholarly focus among political theorists, too few among this cohort appreciate his contributions to political wisdom. To recover an appreciation of Twain’s engagement with and contribution to political philosophy, I offer a political study of Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, a work that Twain considered his “best” and which, according to him, meant “more…than anything I have undertaken.” I examine the novel’s treatment of divine right kingship and particular providence that Twain initiated in Connecticut Yankee and that he explored in several other works published around the turn of the century, most notably “What is Man?”. Twain’s approach to providence in Personal Recollections represents a dramatic portrayal of the origins of modern politics through the figure of Joan of Arc as Machiavellian founder. This portrait allows the reader to reflect anew on the tensions between moral freedom and determinism at the heart of Twain’s corpus, opening a new window into the mind of America’s foremost man of letters at the turn of the century.
Bernard Joseph (B.J.) Dobski is a Professor of Political Science at Assumption University in Worcester, MA, where he teaches courses on political philosophy, international relations, and American foreign policy. In addition to his scholarly work Thucydides, Xenophon, Plato, and Shakespeare, his published work on Mark Twain appears in The Review of Politics (2007), The Journal of American Political Thought (2020), and The Artistic Foundations of Nations and Citizens: Art, Literature, and the Political Community (2021). He has recently completed a book-length commentary on Twain’s Personal Recollections currently titled Twain’s “Prince”: Joan of Arc and the Origins of Modernity.
The 2023 Park Church Summer Lecture Series:
- Wednesday, August 16 – Stephen Rachman, “The Monetary Imagination of Mark Twain: From the Nevada Mines to the £1,000,000 Bank-Note”
In 1985, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies inaugurated The Trouble Begins Lecture Series. The title comes from a handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The lectures are now held in the Fall and Spring in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. In the Summer the lectures are held at the Park Church. All lectures are free and open to the public.
Founded in 1846 by a group of abolitionists, including Jervis Langdon, Mark Twain’s father-in-law, The Park Church has been a strong presence in Elmira’s history. Some of its congregation were close friends and family members to Mark Twain, including Susan Crane, who donated flowers from Quarry Farm every Sunday. 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. Thomas K. Beecher, brother to Harriet Beecher Stowe and friend of Mark Twain, was the first minister at the Park Church and presided over its construction. Before its demolition in 1939, the Langdon Mansion was located directly across from the Park Church.