Michael J. Kiskis Quarry Farm Fellowship

It took Michael Kiskis time to walk across the Elmira College campus, and not only because he moved at such a leisurely, languid pace. It was a rare day when Michael made it to his office without being stopped by students who wanted to talk over their ideas (or problems) , ask a question about Twain (or life), or even just share a story (or a laugh) with one of the most demanding, engaging, and beloved Professors ever to teach at Elmira College.

Michael died suddenly on May 8th, 2011, leaving behind a record of insightful, original scholarship on the life of Mark Twain, which is rivaled only by the enduring legacy of his teaching. When asked once about what guided his work as a professor, he recalled his mother’s “simple statement of principle”: “You learn and you use that learning to make your way. And you pay back, and make sure that others make their way.” Michael Kiskis devoted his life to that principle, encouraging young scholars to develop their talents, to hone an original voice, and to use that voice to change the world.

The Michael J. Kiskis Quarry Farm Fellowship was established to honor Michael’s legacy as a scholar and a teacher.  Through the resources of this fellowship, the Center for Mark Twain Studies will continue the legacy of Michael J. Kiskis, by supporting the critical and creative work of emerging scholars in the field of Mark Twain Studies. 

  • Recipients of the Michael J. Kiskis Quarry Farm Fellowship will receive an additional $500 to their Quarry Farm Fellowship honorarium.
  • All graduate students, recently minted Ph.D. academics, and creative writers new to the field of Mark Twain Studies who have already been accepted to the Quarry Farm Fellowship program are eligible.
  • The selection committee will prioritize Quarry Farm Fellows working in the field of biography and/or autobiography, but all emerging scholars and writers are eligible.

Michael J. Kiskis Quarry Farm Fellowship Selection Committee

  • Ann Cady, Chairperson of the Michael J. Kiskis Memorial Endowment; wife of Michael J. Kiskis
  • Joseph Lemak, Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies
  • Ann Ryan, Professor of English at Le Moyne College

Selected Publications of Dr. Michael J. Kiskis

For a complete list of Dr. Michael J. Kiskis’s publications, click HERE.

For Dr. Michael J. Kiskis’s personal statement, click HERE.

Selected Academic Journal and Book Chapter publications

  • “Mark Twain and the Accusing Angel: ‘The Chronicle of Young Satan’ and Sam Clemens’ Argument with the Inscrutable,”  for Centennial Essays on Mark Twain’s Mysterious Stranger, Edited by Joseph Csicsila and Chad Rohman. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2009: 105-126.
  •  “A Room of His Own: Samuel Clemens, Elmira, and Quarry Farm,” Cosmopolitan Twain, eds. Ann Ryan and Joe McCullough. University of Missouri Press, 2008: 233-253.
  • “Dead Man Talking: Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Deception,” American Literary Realism. Vol. 40, No. 2 (Winter 2008): 95-113.
  •  “Hank Morgan’s Asylum: A Connecticut Yankee and a Record of Loss, “ Modern Language Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Winter 2007): 77-87.
  •  “Critical Humbug: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Mark Twain Annual, No. 3 (2005): 13-22.
  • “Samuel Clemens and Me:  Class, Mothers, and the Trauma of Loss,” Quarry Farm Papers, Number 8. Elmira:  Center for Mark Twain Studies, 2002.
  • “Mark Twain and the Tradition of Literary Domesticity,” in Constructing Mark Twain: New Directions in Scholarship. eds. Laura Skandera Trombley and Michael J. Kiskis. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001: 13-27.
  •  “‘When I read this book as a child, the pain was shifted aside’:  Teaching Huckleberry Finn to Non-Traditional Students,” in Making Mark Twain Work in the Classroom, James Leonard, ed., Durham: Duke University Press, 1999:  292-307.
  • “Mark Twain and Collaborative Autobiography,” Studies in the Literary Imagination, Vol. XXIX, No. 2 (Fall 1996):  27-40.
  • “Coming Back to Humor: the Comic Voice in Mark Twain’s Autobiography.” in Mark Twain’s Humor: Critical Essays. Ed. David E. E. Sloane.  New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1993: 541-569.

Professor Kiskis was a perennial supporter of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. He gave a number of lectures and talks for CMTS and Elmira College, focusing mostly on American literature and Mark Twain Studies. Fortunately, CMTS has preserved two of those lectures and one conversation from WSKG, an NPR member television and radio station.

  • Off The Page, WSKG radio show, featuring Michael J. Kiskis, Ann Ryan, and Barbara Snedecor (2010 – Quarry Farm)
  • Michael J. Kiskis, “Mark Twain in the Tradition of Literary Domesticity” (May 7, 1997 – Quarry Farm)
  • Michael J. Kiskis, “‘A Complete and Purposed Jumble: The Problem with Mark Twain’s Autobiography” (October 28, 1992 – Quarry Farm)

In 2012, CMTS held the third Quarry Farm Symposium, “Complicating Twain: Biography, Autobiography, and the Personal Scholar” in dedication to the memory of Professor Kiskis. The program contains the speakers, titles, abstracts, and essays by Professor Kiskis.

Past Recipients

Charline Jao (2024)

Charline Jao is a PhD candidate in the Department of Literatures in English at Cornell University. Her research broadly focuses on grief, print culture, and gender in the American nineteenth century. Her dissertation, “Early Lost,” looks at the temporality of child death and separation in texts by nineteenth-century American women writers, with an emphasis on events not easily absorbed into sentimentalism or nation-making such as infanticide and abandonment. Jao is the creator of two digital humanities projects: Periodical Poets, a catalogue of poetry published in New York City periodicals run by Black editors in the nineteenth century, and No Stain of Tears and Blood, a collection of material related to the abolitionist free labor/free produce movement. Her research has been supported by the Cornell Rural Humanities Initiative, The Center for Mark Twain Studies, and the American Antiquarian Society.

Between November 7, 1870 and June 2, 1872, Samuel and Olivia Clemens’ letters are filled with updates and reports on their firstborn son, Langdon, whose premature birth and constant sickness filled both parents with constant anxiety. The couple’s worry would eventually prove true, as Langdon died of diathermia at nineteen-months old – a death made even more tragic for the Clemens’s inability to travel to Elmira for Langdon’s burial. My proposed project, titled “‘I was not due here’: Samuel L. Clemens’ Letters for Langdon,” examines Samuel Clemens as a father, reflecting on Clemens’ understanding of and encounter with Langdon’s precarious infancy and the significance of Quarry Farm during his bereavement. Thus, I turn to Clemens’ Langdon letters, reports where Clemens writes from the perspective of his infant son, which combine humor and imagination with a desire to report on the state of the family. My project argues that these letters which recount the Clemens’s first experience with parenthood provide a less-explored archive and insights into studies of Twain and childhood. By looking at microfilm of these letters and texts for and about children (and childhood more broadly) from Clemens’ library, I aim to consider the way that narrative and the imitation of infant “language” (particularly speech and the act of writing) functions in these letters.