Eutsey Kicks Off The 2022 Fall Trouble Begins Lecture Series

The 2022 Fall Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) kicks off its first lecture at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 5 at Quarry Farm (131 Crane Road, Elmira). The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website. 

Image of Mark Twain in Peterson Chapel, Elmira College

The first lecture, “‘There is no humor in heaven’: Mark Twain and Religious Liberalism,” will be presented by Dwayne Eutsey.

The reports of Mark Twain’s atheism have been greatly exaggerated. That’s the thesis of “There is No Humor in Heaven,” a new book Dwayne Eutsey is writing that sees religious liberalism as an overlooked source of Twain’s sharp, irreverent humor. 

In this talk, Eutsey traces the influence various 19th century liberal theologies had on Twain, mainly through his friendships with several popular clergymen. This heterodox influence not only informed Twain’s unorthodox religious views, but contributed to his writing style and lecture performance as well. 

Eutsey presents evidence that Twain’s engagement with liberal religion spanned his lifetime: from his formative years in Hannibal to his time in the Wild West, and from his literary ascendency in Hartford through the private “dark writings” of his grief-stricken final decade. Ultimately, Eutsey shows how Twain, a frustrated preacher of the gospel who detested religious orthodoxy, found his “low” calling to “excite the laughter of God’s creatures” as a humorist amid the liberal religious tumult that helped to define his era.

Since completing his master’s thesis on Mark Twain’s complex religious views (Georgetown University, 1997), Dwayne Eutsey has continued over the decades to research the topic as a labor of love. Establishing himself as an independent scholar in Twain studies through the encouragement of the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, he has gone on to publish several academic articles and to present his findings to scholars and general readers alike at conferences and public lectures. Eutsey, who has a B.A. in English from the University of Maryland at College Park, is a writer/editor with a nonprofit organization on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The 2022 Fall Trouble Begins Lecture Series Schedule:

  • Wednesday, October 12 at Quarry Farm – Shirley Samuels, “Haunted by the River”
  • Wednesday, October 19 at Quarry Farm – Martha Lyon, “Slate Mine, Country Estate, and Suburban Home: Evolution of the Landscape at Quarry Farm”
  • Wednesday, October 26 at Quarry Farm, Judith Yaross Lee, “Mr. Stanley, I Presume: Mark Twain’s 1872 Visit to England and His Growth as a Writer”

Eutsey, Dwayne

Eutsey has written and lectured for CMTS numerous times, including:

The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded in January 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by Jervis Langdon, Jr., the great-grand-nephew of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. 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. 

Founded in 1846 by a group of abolitionists, The Park Church maintains its strong social justice presence in Elmira. Founding congregants, including the Langdons, were close friends and family members to Mark Twain. It is known for its striking architectural features and fervent pastor, Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, who opened his study as Elmira’s first public library in 1876. Today it is a vibrant, progressive United Church of Christ congregation – open and affirming, welcoming all people to worship and participate in its communal life regardless of ethnic origin, race, class, age, ability, gender, or sexual orientation.