The Trouble Begins Archives

Mark Twain in front of the Park Church, Elmira, New York, 1907

In 1985, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies inaugurated The Trouble Begins at Eight 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 of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus.  

In 2016, CMTS expanded the series, creating the Park Church Summer Lectures Series, located in the Park Church.  Founded in 1846 by a group of abolitionists, The Park Church has been a strong presence in Elmira’s history and some of its congregation were close friends and family members to Mark Twain. Known for its striking architectural features, The Park Church contained Elmira’s first public library and has a long history of charitable service to the Elmira community.

All of these lectures are free and open to the public.

Click on the name of the scholar to hear each lecture. CMTS will continue to add lectures as we record talks of current presenters and bring forth past lectures from the Archive.

  • Ron Powers, “Travelin’ Man” (March 21, 2018 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Walter G. Ritchie, Jr., “High Style in Mid-Nineteenth Century Elmira: The Architecture & Interiors of the Jervis Langdon Mansion (May 9, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn) Lecture Images
  • Rebecca Nisetich, “Raising the Bar: Satirizing Law in Puddn’head Wilson and The Sellout” (May 16, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn) Lecture Images
  • Todd Nathan Thompson, “An American Cannibal at Home: Comic Diplomacy in Mark Twain’s Hawai’i” (May 23, 2018 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus) Lecture Images
  • Ben Click, “‘My penchant for silence’: Mark Twain’s Rhetorical Art of the Unspoken” (May 30, 2018 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus) Lecture Images
  • James W. Leonard, “Fingerprints and Microbe Time: Mark Twain and Scientific Skepticism” (June 13, 2018 – The Park Church) Lecture Images
  • Barbara Snedecor, “‘…there is only one thing of real importance…’:Selected Letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens” (June 20, 2018 – The Park Church) Lecture Images
  • Kerry Driscoll, “Mark Twain and the American Indian” (July 11, 2018 – The Park Church)

Chemung County Historical Society Lecture Series

  • M.M. Dawley, “‘Well, ain’t you innocent!’: Mark Twain’s Attack on the American Adam” (August 9, 2018 – Chemung Valley History Museum)
  • Dwayne Eutsey, “‘Never Be In A Hurry to Believe’: How Joe Twichell’s Visits to Elmira and Cornell May Have Saved Huck Finn’s Soul” (August 23, 2018 – Chemung Valley History Museum)
  • Michael Anesko, “The Man of Business as a Man of Letters: William Dean Howells and the Paradox of Monopoly” (October 6, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Mary McAleer Balkun, “Getting What We Deserve in The (New) Gilded Age” (October 6, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Sean X. Goudie, “An Archipelagic Gilded Age: Turn-of-the-Century Caribbean Literature, US Empire, and the ‘New’ Protectionism” (October 6, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Sheri Marie Harrison, “Russell Banks’ Global Gilded Age” (October 6, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Andrew Kopec, “Twain’s Habits: Pudd’head Wilson and Institutional Economics” (October 6, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Ann Ryan, “Mark Twain and the Price of a Haunted House” (October 6, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Henry Wonham, “The Marginal Revolution in American Literature” (October 6, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • David Sloan Wilson, “Mark Twain, Cultural Multilevel Selection, and the New Gilded Age” (Keynote Address – October 5, 2018 – Meier Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Miki Pfeffer, “Getting to Know Mark Twain through the Eyes of Grace King, a Southern Woman of Letters” (October 10, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Melissa Scholes Young, “Writing from Roots in ‘America’s Hometown’: FLOOD, a Novel” (October 24, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • John Bird, “‘At the Farm’: Reliving Mark Twain’s 1884 Summer at Quarry Farm” (November 7, 2018 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Joseph Csicsila, “‘These Hideous Times:’ Mark Twain’s Bankruptcy and the Panic of 1893” (April 26, 2017 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Hoi Na Kung, “The Mechanical Woman in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (May 24, 2017 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Molly Ball, “Twain and The Hawaiian Nation” (June 14, 2017 – The Park Church)
  • Sarah Ingle, ““Conjuring the Superstitions of a Nation: Magic, Memory and Huckleberry Finn” (June 21, 2017 – Park Church)
  • John Pascal, “Artemus Ward: The Man Who Made Lincoln Laugh.” (June 28, 2017 – The Park Church)

Chemung County Historical Society Twain Lectures

  • Mark Dawidziak, “Mark Twain and Rod Serling: Moralists in Disguise” (July 13, 2017 – Chemung Valley History Museum)
  • Ronald Jenn, “Mark Twain and Joan of Arc” documentary (August 4, 2017 – Tripp Lecture Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Bruce Michelson, “Mark Twain in the Po-Mo Twilight” (August 4, 2017 – Kolker Hall Auditorium – Elmira College Campus)
  • Jarrod Roark, “Providence of the Pistol” (August 4, 2017 – Tripp Lecture Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Ben Tarnoff, “Vulgarity from Below Versus Vulgarity from Above: Twain in the Age of Trump” (Keynote Address – August 4, 2017 – Gibson Theater – Elmira College Campus)
  • Emily E. VanDette, “‘That heart-breaking bitch’: Aileen Mavourneen & The Transatlantic Anti-Vivisection Movement” (October 4, 2017 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Nathaniel Williams, “Mark Twain and the Inventor Fiction Boom: Technology Meets American Conceit, 1876-1910” (October 11, 2017 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Liam Purdon, “Mark Twain and the Narrative Magic of Medieval Literary Spunk-Water Stumps” (October 18, 2017 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Hal K. Bush, “Collecting Mark Twain: Obsessions over the Great Authors and The Hemingway Files” (November 1, 2017 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Peter Messent, “You know the secret places of our hearts:’ The Mark Twain-Joe Twichell Letters” (October 19, 2016 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Martin Zehr, “Dressing For Success: Mark Twain Fashions an Image to Suit His Disguise” (October 26, 2016 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Judith Yaross Lee, “Mark Twain’s Brand: Comic Performance and the Modern American Self (November 2, 2016 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus)

Chemung County Historical Society Twain Lectures

  • Matthew Seybold, “The Making of Chimerica: Globalization, Economics, and Mark Twain’s ‘Fable of the Yellow Terror” (September 29, 2016 – Chemung Valley History Museum)
  • Jeanne Campbell Reesman, “Mark Twain vs. God: The Story of A Relationship” (September 30, 2015 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Susan K. Harris, “Searching For The Ornithorhynchus: Mark Twain and Animal Conservation” (October 7, 2015 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Andrew Levy, “Fraternizing With the Enemy: Revisiting Mark Twain’s Writings For, and About, Children” (November 30, 2015 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Paula Harrington, “The French Face of Twain” (May 14, 2014 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Harriet Elinor Smith, “The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Did He Speak His ‘Whole, Frank Mind?” (May 21, 2014 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Martin Zehr, “Mark Twain’s Chinese Connection: Empathy, Politics, and Race” (June 4, 2014 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Harry Wonham, “Mark Twain and Money” (September 17, 2014 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Chad Rohman, “John Woolman, Quaker Saint. Mark Twain, Quaker Son?” (September 24, 2014 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Kerry Driscoll, “Mark Twain, The Maori, and The Mystery of Livy’s Jade Pendant” (October 1, 2014 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Benjamin Griffin, “Mark Twain At Home: An Edition and Its Challenges” (November 30, 2014 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Donald Tiffany Bliss, “Mark Twain on the State of American Politics Today” (May 8, 2013 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • R. Kent Rasmussen, “Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers” (May 15, 2013 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Ann Ryan, “The Ghosts of Mark Twain” (September 25, 2013 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Steve Courtney, “The Loveliest Home That Ever Was’: The Story of the Mark Twain House in Hartford” (October 2, 2013 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Tom Reigstad, “Scribblin’ For A Livin’: Mark Twain’s Pivotal Period in Buffalo (November 30, 2013 – Hamilton Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Victor Fischer, “Editing Tales from Inside the Mark Twain Project” (May 23, 2012 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Susan K. Harris, “Mark Twain and the Philippine-American War: “Hogwash” and “Pious Hypocrisy” (May 30, 2012 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Joe B. Fulton, “‘The Noblest and Best Man after Washington’: The Role of President Abraham Lincoln in Mark Twain’s Reconstruction” (June 6, 2012 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Hilary Iris Lowe, “Mark Twain’s Homes and Haunts: Mark Twain Museums and Public History” (October 3, 2012 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Lawrence Howe, “Mark Twain and America’s Ownership Society” (October 17, 2012 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Philip McFarland, “Mark Twain and America’s ‘Worst President'” (November 30, 2012 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Sharon McCoy, “Anything But Inoffensive: Mark Twain, the San Francisco Minstrels, and the Unsettling Legacy of Blackface Minstrelsy” (May 11, 2011 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Randall Knoper, “Mark Twain and the Brain” (May 18, 2011 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Henry Wonham, “Work and Play in Mark Twain” (May 25, 2011 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Barbara E. Snedecor, “…the quietest of all places…” (September 21, 2011 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Michael Pratt, “Mark Twain’s Nature in Roughing It, Naturally” (September 28, 2011 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • David Foster, “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc: Mark Twain’s Best Book?” (October 5, 2011 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Cindy Lovell, “Mark Twain: Words & Music” (November 30, 2011 – Hamilton Hall – Elmira College  Campus)
  • Judith Yaross Lee, “Comic Imperialism and Connecticut Yankee” (April 28, 2010 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Lance Heidig, “Mark Twain’s Cornell: Venturing Far Above Cayuga’s Waters with Sam Clemens” (May 5, 2010 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Alex Effgen, “Mark Twain Illustrated and Impersonated” (May 26, 2010 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Michael Shelden, “Mark Twain: Man in White – The Grand Adventure of His Final Years” (September 22, 2010 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Jerome Loving, “Mark Twain on the Eve of Huckleberry Finn” (September 29, 2010 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Lawrence I. Berkove and Joseph Csicsila, “The Faith of a Heretic: Mark Twain’s Religious Thinking in His Literary Works” (October 6, 2010 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Laura Skandera Trombley, “Which One Do You Want? The Binary Mark Twain” (November 29, 2010 – Hamilton Hall – Elmira College Campus)
  • Steve Courtney, “‘This Damned Fool’s Example’: The Rifts Between Mark Twain and Joe Twichell” (May 13, 2009 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • James E. Caron, “Mark Twain, Unsanctified Newspaper Reporter” (May 20, 2009 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • M. Thomas Inge, “Hank Morgan on Film: Adaptations of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (May 27, 2009 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Mark Dawidziak, “‘Mark Twain Tonight!‘, Today, and Tomorrow’: The Impact and Importance of Hal Holbrook’s One Man Show” (August 8, 2009 – Tripp Lecture Hall – Elmira College Campus) includes response by Hal Holbrook
  • David Fears, “The Making of Mark Twain Day By Day: Rudyard Kipling Meets Mark Twain” (September 9, 2009 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Abraham Kupersmith, “Twain and Freud on Personality and Politics” (September 30, 2009 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Tom Quirk, “How Mark Twain Changed His Very Own Mind” (May 7, 2008 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Peter Krass, “Mark Twain: His Business (Mis)-Adventures” (May 14, 2008 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Forrest Robinson, “The Author-Cat: Bad Faith in Clemens’s Life and Work” (May 28, 2008 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Shelley Fisher Fishkin, “The ‘War-Prayer’ Revisited: A Text for Our Time” (May 3, 2007 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Hal Bush, “Mark Twain and Spiritual Crisis” (May 16, 2007 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Joe B. Fulton, “The Reverend Mark Twain: ‘This Career of Sparkling Holiness, Usefulness, and Health-Giving Theological Travel” (May 30, 2007 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Laura Skandera Trombley, “Mark Twain’s Annus Horribilis of 1908″ (September 19, 2007 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Terrell Dempsey, “Searching for Jim: Slavery in Sam Clemens’s World” (October 3, 2007 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Gary F. Scharnhorst, “Mark Twain’s Interviews: The Final Report” (October 10, 2007 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Bruce Michelson, “Mark Twain and the American Media Revolution” (May 10, 2006 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Steve Courtney, “How Mark Twain’s Good Friend and Confidant Handled Three Tough Years in the Army of the Potomac” (May 17, 2006 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • David Caplan, “‘That Grotesque and Laughable Word, Patriotism’: Rethinking Mark Twain on Patriotism” (May 24, 2006 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Michael Pratt, “A Fossil Guide to Mark Twain’s Essay ‘Was The World Made for Man?'” (September 20, 2006 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Philip Ashley Fanning, “Mark Twain, Orion Clemens, and the Mysterious Stranger” (September 27, 2006 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Donald Hoffman, “Sailing to Bermuda with Mark Twain” (October 11, 2006 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Stephen Railton, “Mark Twain, Virtually” (November 30, 2006 – Tifft Lounge – Elmira College Campus)
  • Victor Doyno, “Twain Writes with Burning Ink: King Leopold’s Soliloquy” (August 2001 – Gibson Theater – Elmira College Campus)
  • Lawrence I. Berkove, “The Secret Source of Roughing It(s) Humor” (November 30, 1999 – Hamilton Hall, Elmira College Campus)
  • Lawrence I. Berkove, “The Ethical Records of Twain and his Circle of Old West Journalists” (March 24, 1993 – Quarry Farm Barn)

Spring Trouble Begins Series


Fall Trouble Begins Series

  • Hamlin Hill, “The Many Faces of Mark Twain” (September 16, 1985 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • James Cox, “Mark Twain: The Outlaw in Literature” (September 23, 1985 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • John S. Tuckey, “Mark Twain: The Youth Who Lived on in the Sage” (October 14, 1985)
  • Henry Nash Smith, “How True are Dreams? Fantasy as Refuge or Nightmare in Mark Twain’s Later Work (October 28, 1985 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Leo Marx, “Mark Twain, ‘Classic’ American Literature, and the Belief in Progress” (November 11, 1985 – Quarry Farm Barn)

Quadrennial Conference and Symposium Programs

Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series Programs

Summer Park Church Lecture Series Programs

Fall Trouble Begins Lecture Series Programs