Lecture on Twain and the Civil War in Elmira
The spring portion of the 2020 Spring The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues on Wednesday, May 20. All four lectures are free and available to the public on marktwainstudies.org.
The lecture, “Witnessing the Civil War: In Elmira With Mark Twain,” will be presented by Shirley Samuels, Cornell University. Mark Twain did not go to Elmira during the Civil War, so the title has some deliberate ambiguity. What Elmira held during the last year of the war was a prisoner of war camp, and Samuels is intrigued with the idea that Twain might have visited the site with the small dread that he could have been confined there or in a place like it if he had been captured during his brief foray into serving with a renegade group of would-be confederate soldiers. Most of the presentation focuses on his uncomfortable writing about the war in Life on the Mississippi. The revisions that appear between the early drafts of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that appear in Life and its later, more familiar, appearance also fascinate Samuels. Since Twain wrote most of Huckleberry Finn while sitting in his lair above Elmira, the title of the talk comes full circle.
Shirley Samuels, a member of the 2020 Class of Quarry Farm Fellows, is working on a monograph, currently titled “Haunted by the Civil War,” on witnessing, testimony, and culture in the United States. She teaches at Cornell University in several departments, including American Studies, English, History of Art and Visual Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her books include Race and Vision in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. (2019); The Cambridge Companion to Abraham Lincoln (2012); Reading the American Novel: 1780-1865 (2012); Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War (2004); Companion to American Fiction, 1780-1865 (2004); Romances of the Republic: Women, the Family, and Violence in the Literature of the Early American Nation (1996); and The Culture of Sentiment: Race, Gender, and Sentimentality in the 19th Century America (1992.) In addition to Cornell University, she has taught at Princeton University, Brandeis University, and the University of Delaware. She has held fellowships from The American Council of Learned Societies, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Huntington Library. She is a member of the 2020 class of Quarry Farm Fellows.
About 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.