Wednesday, October 5 at Quarry Farm (7:00pm)
“‘There is no humor in heaven’: Mark Twain and Religious Liberalism”
Dwayne Eutsey, Independent Scholar
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, 2022 at Quarry Farm (7:00pm)
“Haunted by the River”
Shirley Samuels, Cornell University
For Mark Twain, the Mississippi River appears as a recursive site of memory and loss. For Herman Melville, in his last, notoriously complicated novel, the transformations enabled by a confidence man on a steamboat called the Fidele become at once bitter satire and a ferocious form of rootlessness. Melville’s novels typically take place on the ocean, but these fictions address a precarious river that runs to the sea. What draws me to considering these works together? Both overlap with violence on shore and lead me to the autobiography known as the story of Black Hawk. To read the face of the river is to read the faces of men on the river, in his account as in others, to anticipate whether they bring violence.
Shirley Samuels teaches at Cornell University. She is the director of American Studies, and teaches courses with Literatures in English, History of Art and Visual Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her books include: Reading the American Novel 1780-1865, Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War and Romances of the Republic: Women, the Family, and Violence in the Literature of the Early American Nation. Her edited works include the Cambridge Companion to Abraham Lincoln, Companion to American Fiction, 1780-1865, The Culture of Sentiment: Race, Gender, and Sentimentality in 19th Century America, and, most recently, Race and Vision in the Nineteenth-Century United States (Lexington, 2019). The working title of her current book project is Haunted by the Civil War.
Wednesday, October 19 at Quarry Farm (7:00pm)
“Slate Mine, County Estate, Dairy, and Suburban Home: Evolution of the Landscape at Quarry Farm”
Martha Lyon, Principal of Martha Lyon Landscape Architecture, LLC
The study is nearly on the peak of the hill; it is right in front of the little perpendicular wall of rock left where they used to quarry stones.Mark Twain, 1874
While the Quarry Farm is most often associated with Samuel Clemens, who spent the summers of 1870 to 1890 at the property writing from his hilltop study under the pen name of Mark Twain, the significance of the farm’s environs – its landscape – extends far beyond this twenty-year period. Initially territory of Native people, it was, in the early 19th century, eyed for land speculation and later, mined for slate. Acquisition in 1869 by Jervis Langdon marked the beginning of a 113-year family relationship with the property as a country estate and dairy farm, and lastly, a suburban home. Evolution of the Landscape at Quarry Farm will trace the landscape’s physical development through this history, and reflect on the economic and social shifts, both local and national, that influenced this development. The talk will conclude with a discussion of options for preserving the landscape as part of the larger effort to safeguard the Quarry Farm property.
Martha H. Lyon, ASLA is principal of Martha Lyon Landscape Architecture, LLC, a Northampton, Massachusetts-based practice specializing in planning and design for historic and cultural landscapes. Significant projects include restoration of landscapes at the Emily Dickinson Museum (Amherst, MA), Spencer Trask Memorial (Saratoga Springs, NY), Fort Allen Park (Portland, ME), and Charter Street Cemetery (Salem, MA). A licensed practitioner, Martha holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Massachusetts. She is currently developing a Cultural Landscape Report for the Quarry Farm to help guide the Center for Mark Twain Studies in its efforts to preserve and more broadly interpret the property.
Wednesday, October 26 at Quarry Farm (7:00pm)
“‘Mr. Stanley, I Presume’: Mark Twain’s 1872 Visit to England and His Growth as a Writer”
Judith Yaross Lee, Ohio University
Samuel Clemens had three explicit reasons for visiting England in the fall of 1872. He sought to cement relations with his British publisher for the authorized UK editions of Roughing It and Innocents Abroad. He wanted to challenge John Camden Hotten’s unauthorized publications of his work. And he aimed to soak up English life for a book featuring Mark Twain’s comic take on local customs. He had not
intended to reconnect with Henry Morton Stanley, whom he had met briefly in 1866, recently returned from his successful African mission to rescue missionary explorer Dr. David Livingstone. But after dutifully forwarded James Redpath’s invitation offering to manage a US lecture tour for Stanley that winter, Sam began a
friendship with Stanley that not only fills in the biographical and historical details of a time when both felt the thrill and challenges of life as Yankees suddenly thrust into Queen Victoria’s England—but also tracks Mark Twain’s growth as a writer shifting from topical sketches and travel books to fully developed fictions and a robust public persona.
Judith Yaross Lee is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Communication Studies at Ohio University and a 2022 Quarry Farm Scholar. In addition to her recent Seeing MAD: Essays on Mad Magazine’s Humor and Legacy (2020), edited with John Bird, her six books and five dozen essays on American humor and popular rhetorics include Twain’s Brand: Humor in Contemporary American Culture (2012) and “Brand Management: Samuel Clemens, Trademarks, and the Mark Twain Enterprise” (2014), for which she recovered the long-lost Mark Twain trademark documentation. Her leadership of the 2020 Quarry Farm Symposium, “American Humor and Matters of Empire,” and her article and special issue of Studies in American Humor with the same title, grew out of her early work on Mark Twain’s relationship to Henry Stanley.
PAST 2022 LECTURES
Wednesday, July 20 at The Park Church
“Mutiny on the Ballot: Conversion Narrative in Mark Twain’s ‘The Great Revolution in Pictairn”
Bill Hunt, Barton College
Despite ample sources for potential inspiration in the vicinity of Elmira, Mark Twain looked abroad to examine the cultural and political merits of women’s franchise. He would turn to the tiny, South Pacific island of Pitcairn, which, in 1838, became the first sovereignty on Earth where women exercised the right to vote. Twain’s “The Great Revolution in Pitcairn” (1875) entertains doubts about the large-scale feasibility of universal adult suffrage—just before embarking upon a scenario in which it emerges as an existential imperative. The short story fictionalizes the historical invasion of one Joshua W. Hill, an American grifter and filibuster, who erroneously instituted his own absolute rule over Pitcairn in the 1830s. As islanders fend off the dictatorial predations of “Emperor Butterworth Stavely” (Twain’s stand-in for Hill), voting rights manifest as a means of anti-colonial resistance. The formation of a self-determining body politic becomes essential to the deposition of a genocidal tyrant. Uncoupling the association of maleness and political representation, the narrative mirrors Twain’s own biographical conversion to the cause of women’s suffrage in the 1870s.
Bill Hunt is assistant professor of American Literature at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Virginia. A James B. Duke fellow, he received his Ph.D. from Duke University in 2016. Of late, he has published pieces in The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review and in an edited book collection, American and Muslim Worlds before 1900. His scholarship is often impelled by the notion that the American Suffrage Movement was essentially literary in character, as much as it was social and political. In 2017, he began a digital humanities experiment, www.100signersproject.com, which utilizes archival records to create recuperative biographies for the 100 signers of the Declaration of Sentiments at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.
Watch Bill Hunt’s lecture HERE.
Wednesday, July 6 at The Park Church
“Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in Pseudo-Scientific Socialist Utopias”
Max Chapnick, Boston University
Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), appeared between two politically-minded time travel utopias, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888) and H.G. Wells’s Time Machine (1895). Most criticism reads each of these novels as using science to reimagine the economy: the novels are optimistic about science but pessimistic about capitalism. But while the three authors emerge from a broad field of “scientific socialists,” in each narrative an anti-scientific element remains. In the context of Twain’s later interest and disdain for pseudo-science as in Christian Science (1907) and his critique of imperial projects as in King Leopold’s Soliloquy (1905), I will investigate to what extent that engagement with science and empire, and the relationship between those two, began in earlier decades during the writing of Connecticut Yankee. These three technology-minded writer’s dys/utopic time travel narratives, and in particular Connecticut Yankee, ask: what if the increasing consolidation of science into disciplinary and elitist projects, and its uptake as an engine of state, empire, and war, undermined science’s more populist promise?
Max Chapnick is a PhD candidate in English and American literature at Boston University, where he is writing a dissertation called “Wild Science: Radical Politics and Rejected Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Literature.” A chapter from his dissertation on Pauline Hopkins appears in latest issue of New England Quarterly, and shorter essays appear in PMLA, Configurations, and Current Affairs. At Boston University, he teaches English and first-year writing courses on the nineteenth-century, modernism, science fiction, and environmental literature.
Watch Max L. Chapnick’s lecture HERE.
Wednesday, June 22 at The Park Church
“‘There was Eden’: Eve in the Time of Twain”
Ariel Silver, Author
Twain’s treatment of Eve in Eve’s Diary (1906), published shortly after the death of his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, combines a triptych of ideas: a loving homage to his beloved spouse, a reflection on religious debates about evolution relative to ecclesiastical and social order, and an expression of the political concerns of women, called “suffragettes” for the first time that year to mark their direct engagement in their quest for the vote. Composed in tandem with Adam’s Diary (1904), Twain suggests that the fortunes of Adam and Eve are inextricable. If “original sin” was committed, they both bear responsibility. If their fall was fortunate, then they proceed together on that path of human possibility. Twain deftly combines the serious and satirical to produce a wholly new view of Eve. Even as the historical-critical method is applied to the Bible, Twain comically attempts his own textual deconstruction and reconsideration of the Genesis text, giving space for a female voice and perspective even as he reflects cleverly on own his multi-faceted engagement with the “woman question.”
Ariel Silver is the author of The Book of Esther and the Typology of Female Transfiguration in American Literature (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) and a contributor to Esther in America (Maggid, 2020). She wrote on Esther in the work of Louisa May Alcott in “Queen Aster and Queen Esther” for The Lehrhaus (2021). Her work on Margaret Fuller and May Alcott has just been published in The Forgotten Alcott (Routledge, 2022). Ariel writes on women, literature, and religion in nineteenth-century American culture. She currently serves as President-elect of the Hawthorne Society and is a Quarry Farm Fellow for 2022.
Watch Ariel Silver’s lecture HERE.
Wednesday, May 25 at Quarry Farm
“’Our One Really Effective Weapon’: Mark Twain and Humor as a Social Tool”
Elizabeth Cantalamessa, University of Miami
“Power, Money, Persuasion, Supplication, Persecution–these can lift at a colossal humbug,–push it a little…but only Laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast.”Mark Twain, “The Mysterious Stranger”
Mark Twain understood that humor was not merely a psychological response, but a tool that allows us to do things that we could not do as effectively with other, more literal forms of speech. While it might seem like indirect methods of communication are generally less successful than straightforward deliberation, Twain’s work demonstrates that humor can be a useful tool for challenging social conventions in contexts where explicit justification would be too risky, controversial, or sabotage one’s goals. For example, Twain often employed parody to reveal latent absurdities in traditional Christian values and beliefs. Contrast Twain’s use of parody with someone stating that, “Traditional Christian values are full of contradictions.” This declaration obligates the speaker to explain why their criticism is true, which would undermine the successfulness of the critique altogether. I’ll argue that Twain’s authorship provides a model of humor as a tool for inquiry and helps us locate the communicative contexts in which humor might be the most effective weapon.
Elizabeth Cantalamessa is a PhD candidate and instructor in philosophy at the University of Miami whose research lies at the intersection of social philosophy, philosophy of language, and philosophical methodology. Her dissertation proposes an alternative model of humor as a tool with unique expressive powers that allows speakers to publicly demonstrate socially-significant values without explicit justification, which captures how humor serves as a tool for revealing, reinforcing, and challenging social norms. She is a 2022 Quarry Farm Fellow and has published in The British Journal of Aesthetics, Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, as well as the online public philosophy outlets Aeon, Psyche, and Aesthetics for Birds.
Watch Elizabeth Cantalamessa’s lecture HERE.
Wednesday, May 18 at Quarry Farm
“A Copyright Ignored? Mark Twain, Mary Ann Cord, and the Meaning of Authorship”
Timothy J. McFarlin, Samford University – Cumberland School of Law
Did Mark Twain and the Atlantic infringe a copyright belonging to Mary Ann Cord? And does that copyright still exist today? In 1874 Cord told Twain and his family the heartrending and astounding story of how her family had been torn from her when she was enslaved, and how she was then liberated, years later, by her youngest son, Henry, now a Union soldier. Twain proceeded to write Cord’s story down from memory, organizing it chronologically, editing it, and describing how she told it. Twain published this manuscript in The Atlantic Monthly as “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It,” for money, under his name alone.
My talk will explore whether Cord had a common-law copyright in how she expressed her story and whether Twain and the Atlantic infringed on it. If so, Cord’s descendants may still hold that copyright today. In this way, these questions connect to our society’s current debates over reparations, as well as our longstanding examination of what it means to be an author.
Tim McFarlin is an Associate Professor at Samford University – Cumberland School of Law where he teaches courses relating to property and contract law; he specializes in intellectual property such as copyrights. His scholarship explores how the law intersects and interacts with the creative arts. He has previously written about the life, work, and disputes of artists like Chuck Berry and Orson Welles, mining them for insights into copyright law and the concept of authorship. He was raised in Missouri, like Twain, and practiced law in St. Louis. Trips to Hannibal as a boy and adult are cherished memories.
Wednesday, May 11 at Quarry Farm
“‘A Yankee in Kennedy’s Court: The Humorous American Story and the Mark Twain Prize
Charline Jao, Cornell University
Nearly every year since 1998, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has honored an individual for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. From the inaugural honoree Richard Pryor to this year’s Jon Stewart, there is a wide range of talent in this hall of fame, each with their own Twainian resonance. Yet, the claims of the award provide a telling portrait of the evolving relationship between comedy and American politics. The various ceremonies – which include the awarding of a bronze-colored bust of Twain, a fundraising ceremony filled with speeches, and an optional visit to the White House – simultaneously affirm the power of humor and draw the limits of comedic criticism. Taking Stewart, his avowed “anti-bullshit” ethos, and Daily Show tenure as its main focus (and examining this work through Twain’s dissections of the comedic persona in texts like “On the Decay of the Art of Lying,” “My First Lie and How I Got Out of It,” and “How to Tell a Story”), this talk interrogates the award’s claims to promoting unity and rewarding fearless observation. Rather than a simple elevation of comedy as an art form, the award stages constant friction between political criticism, humor, power, prestige, and cultural absorption.
Charline Jao is a graduate student in the Literatures in English Department at Cornell University. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century American literature, with special interest in speculative work by women writers and print culture. She is currently working on a digital humanities project that catalogues poetry published in abolitionist periodicals.
Wednesday, May 4 at Quarry Farm
“Found in Translation: Mark Twain’s Italian Humor”
Fred L. Gardaphe, Queens College/CUNY and the John D. Calandra Italian/American Institute
U.S. Americans were laughing at Italians long before they were laughing with them. Like all new immigrants, Italians served as targets of American humor, first through fear of their differences, then out of familiarity with their peculiarities.Scholars suggest that this is simply part of the process by which that minority is incorporated into the identity mosaic of the United States.
In a society governed by representation, a way of controlling people, beyond the law system, is through humiliation through humor, where laughter and ridicule serve as effective weapons of mass reduction, distorting identities through the creation of stereotypes that serve a variety of purposes. Humor, especially when ironic, can also reveal the prejudices and biases of those making fun of the new arrivals to the country.
Gardaphe examines the Italian references in Twain’s works, including The Innocents Abroad, “Italian with Grammar,” “Italian Without a Master,” A Tramp Abroad, Pudd’nhead Wilson, and his autobiography, to show how his ironic approach to Italy and the Italian people differs from most U.S. American writers of his time.
Fred L. Gardaphe is a Distinguished Professor of English and Italian/American Studies at Queens College/CUNY and the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute. He is a Fulbright Fellow (University of Salerno, Italy (2011) and past president of the Italian American Studies Association (formerly AIHA), MELUS, and the Working Class Studies Association. His books include Italian Signs, American Streets: The Evolution of Italian American Narrative, Dagoes Read: Tradition and the Italian/American Writer, Moustache Pete is Dead!, Leaving Little Italy, and From Wiseguys to Wise Men: Masculinities and the Italian American Gangster. He is currently working on a study of humor and irony in Italian American culture, which is the basis for this talk.
In 1985, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies inaugurated The Trouble Begins at Eight 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 of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. In the Summer of each year, the lectures are held at the Park Church. All lectures are free and open to the public.
The Barn at Quarry Farm
The Barn at Quarry Farm has been repurposed as a lecture venue. This was made possible from a generous preservation grant from the Jon Ben Snow Memorial Trust.
Attendees can park on Crane Road or on the grassy area behind the Barn. Quarry Farm is a fragile, natural environment. Please exercise care. If using a GPS, enter 131 Crane Road, Elmira, New York
Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall
Elmira College Campus
Lectures may also be held in Peterson Chapel in Elmira College’s Cowles Hall. The chapel features a series of stained glass windows depicted the history and traditions of the college, including one of Twain in front of his study and one of his wife, Elmira College alumnus Olivia Clemens, on front of the porch at Quarry Farm. There is also a Mark Twain Exhibit in Cowles Hall.
The address of Elmira College is 1 Park Place, Elmira, NY 14901. Cowles Hall is on the east side of Park Place, behind the Fasset Commons Art building on Washington Avenue. In front of Cowles Hall is a small man-made pond known as “The Puddle” and the Mark Twain Study. Public parking may be found off of North Main Street, at the north east corner of campus.
The Park Church
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.
The Park Church is located at 208 West Gray Street, Elmira, New York.