Next Trouble Begins Lecture Focuses on Twain and Ulysses S. Grant

The public is invited to attend the fall 2023 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies and supported by the generous donations of The Mark Twain Foundation. The third free lecture will be at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 25 in the Barn at Quarry Farm with a presentation by Stephen Cushman of the University of Virginia.

Photo of Gen. U.S. Grant writing his memoirs, Saratoga Springs, NY (June 27, 1885)

Entitled “Mark Twain and the Civil War Memoir Boom,” the lecture explores how Mark Twain capitalized on the success of Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs. The first volume of Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant were published by Twain’s firm in 1885 and soon after Twain published memoirs by George B. McClellan and Philip H. Sheridan, capitalizing on public interest in the stories of Civil War generals. Cushman contends that Twain’s admiration for Grant’s book invites us to consider these memoirs as historical and literary works, revealing how they remain vital to understanding the interaction of memory, imagination, and the writing of American history. Twain’s example also shows how market forces of the late nineteenth century anticipated the memoir boom of today.

Stephen Cushman is Robert C. Taylor Professor of English at the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Generals’ Civil War: What Their Memoirs Can Teach Us Today, Belligerent Muse: Five Northern Writers and How They Shaped Our Understanding of the Civil War, and Bloody Promenade: Reflections on a Civil War Battle. Cushman has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Greece. He has been honored as UVA Cavalier Distinguished Professor and recipient of a State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award.

This year’s series includes a special presentation on Thursday, November 30, by Barbara Snedecor. Entitled “Gravity – A Conversation,” Snedecor will have a conversation with Dr. Matt Seybold, Associate Professor of American Literature and Mark Twain Studies; Director of Media Studies, Communications, and Design; and Resident Scholar at the Center for Mark Twain Studies.

Snedecor served for many years as Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College and recently edited a volume of selected letters by Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia Louise Langdon Clemens.

The remaining lectures in this year’s Fall Trouble Begins Lecture Series are listed below. All lectures are free and open to the public. Find recordings of previous lectures here.

  • 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the Barn at Quarry Farm: “Mark Twain and the Civil War Memoir Boom” by Stephen Cushman of the University of Virginia
  • 7:00 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 30, Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus: “Gravity — A Conversation” by Barbara Snedecor in conversation with Matt Seybold, Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies

About the Trouble Begins Lecture Series – In 1985, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies inaugurated The Trouble Begins Lecture Series. The title comes from a handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The lectures are now held in the Fall and Spring in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. In the Summer the lectures are held at the Park Church. All lectures are free and open to the public.

The Trouble Begins and Park Church Lecture Series are made possible by the support of the Mark Twain FoundationKatherine Roehlke, and generous gifts from individual donors.