Max Cavitch Concludes the 2020 Park Church Summer Lectures

Max Cavitch’s lecture, “Twains Meet” is now available to stream and/or download. Professor Cavitch’s lecture will be included CMTS’ “Trouble Begins” Archive, along with other CMTS lectures dating all the way back to 1985. All CMTS lectures are free to the general public at no cost.

1850 daguerreotype of Samuel Clemens

What kinds of self-encounter get memorialized in Mark Twain’s vast and long-secreted Autobiography? Mark Twain has a lot of fun with the play of self-representation, while also wrestling seriously with the challenges of writing both from and against the point of view of his mediatized images. This lecture explores how Twain made and re-made himself into an object of regard—both in living his life and in writing about it—against the backdrop of a nascent culture of mass publicity increasingly defined by photography. Even as a youngster, Samuel Clemens seems to have understood that, against widely shared confidence in photography’s indexical relation to the “real,” it also had the potential to manipulate appearances in a culture that was increasingly riven by antithetical commitments to publicity (the transparency and knowability of the workings of an open society of equals) and to privacy (individual control over public access to one’s own identity and experience). As he grew to become one of the first modern celebrities, Twain continued to watch as America’s democratic culture became more and more dependent on the mechanical reproduction of photographic images, both to expand and to distort popular perception of things “as they really are.”

Max Cavitch is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also an affiliated faculty member of the programs in Comparative Literature, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, and Psychoanalytic Studies. He is the author of American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman (2007) and of numerous essays on American and African American Literature, Animal Studies, Cinema Studies, Poetry and Poetics, and Psychoanalytic Studies. His new edition of Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days is forthcoming in the Oxford World’s Classics series. Presently, he is completing a comprehensive study of autobiographical writing, called Passing Resemblances.

Professor Cavitch’s lecture can be found HERE.