Lecture on Twain and the Suffrage Movement Concludes the 2022 Park Church Summer Lectures
The 2022 Park Church Summer Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) concludes the series at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 20 at The Park Church (208 W. Gray Street, Elmira). The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website.
Bill Hunt will present “Mutiny on the Ballot: Conversion Narrative in Mark Twain’s ‘The Great Revolution in Pictairn”
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.
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.
Founded in 1846 by a group of abolitionists, The Park Church maintains its strong social justice presence in Elmira. Founding congregants, including the Langdons, were close friends and family members to Mark Twain. It is known for its striking architectural features and fervent pastor, Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, who opened his study as Elmira’s first public library in 1876. Today it is a vibrant, progressive United Church of Christ congregation – open and affirming, welcoming all people to worship and participate in its communal life regardless of ethnic origin, race, class, age, ability, gender, or sexual orientation.