The 2022 Fall Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) kicked off its first lecture on Wednesday, October 5 at Quarry Farm. The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website.
The first lecture, “‘There is no humor in heaven’: Mark Twain and Religious Liberalism,” was presented by Dwayne Eutsey. This lecture and dozens of others can be found in the CMTS Trouble Begins Archive.
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.
- 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”
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.
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.