Graduating Senior Wins Mark Twain Essay Prize

Ashley Fredericks ’17 was awarded the 24th Annual Mark Twain Essay Prize as part of Commencement Weekend festivities for her graduating class at Elmira College.

Ms. Frederick’s essay, titled “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: To Teach or Not to Teach,” enters the most volatile and publicized debate in Mark Twain Studies since the 1950s, concerning the appropriateness of Twain’s most acclaimed novel to secondary school classrooms based on its repeated invocation of the “n-word.” Ashley traces iterations of this controversy through local and national educational policy debates across several decades, analyzes the positions of Twain scholars like Joe Csicsila, David Sloane, and Cassandra Smith, then reframes the controversy using both contemporary pedagogical theory and her own recent experiences as both a college student and a secondary school student-teacher.

The debate which Ashley engages has a tendency to be tedious and reductive, but Ashley manages to bring a fresh perspective as an energetic, diligent, and astute millennial teacher-scholar.

Every year CMTS sponsors the Mark Twain Writing Contest, which is open to all Elmira College students. In addition to being honored at the end-of-year banquets, winners receive a cash prize and have their names added to a statuette in McGraw Hall.

Ashley’s essay is also under review at the Chemung Historical Journal

The runner-up for this year’s prize was Emma Freedenberg ’17 for her essay “Proto-Feminism in The Gilded Age.” Emma won the contest in 2016.

Congrats to Ashley, Emma, and the rest of the Elmira College Class of 2017!