Past Quadrennial Conferences

Since 1989, the Center for Mark Twain Studies has hosted The International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies. This quadrennial gathering is devoted to advancing and exploring the State of Mark Twain Studies. The Conference takes place on the Elmira College campus and at Quarry Farm. Hundreds of scholars and enthusiasts from around the globe gather to study and celebrate the life of Sam Clemens and the literature of Mark Twain, constituting the world’s largest scholarly conference focusing on Mark Twain and his literature.


Center for Mark Twain Studies Awards

At every conference, the Center for Mark Twain Studies has the honor of bestowing two awards on two scholars who work in Mark Twain Studies.

The Henry Nash Smith Award is given to a Mark Twain Studies scholar who has demonstrated exemplary service to the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Former award recipients include:

  • Elmira 2017: Barbara Snedecor
  • Elmira 2013: Ann M. Ryan
  • Elmira 2009: Horst Kruse
  • Elmira 2005: Susan K. Harris
  • Elmira 2001: Howard Baetzhold
  • Elmira 1997: Alan Gribben
  • Elmira 1993: James D. Wilson
  • Elmira 1989: David E.E. Sloane

Henry Nash Smith (1906 – 1986) was a noted Mark Twain Studies scholar, curator of the Mark Twain Papers, and one of the founders of the academic discipline “American Studies.”

The John S. Tuckey Award is given to a scholar in recognition of lifetime achievements and contributions to Mark Twain Studies. The award was formerly given to individual Quarry Farm Fellows in the early 1990’s; then CMTS Director Barbara Snedecor reinstated and elevated the award for the Elmira 2005 Quadrennial Conference. Former quadrennial award recipients include:

  • Elmira 2017: Shelley Fisher Fishkin
  • Elmira 2013: Robert Hirst
  • Elmira 2009: Tom Quirk
  • Elmira 2005: Thomas Asa Tenney

John S. Tuckey’s (1921-1987) scholarship on Mark Twain’s later writing forced scholars to fundamentally reevaluate their perceptions of Twain and his literature.


Elmira 2017: The Eighth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies

The title of the conference was “The Assault of Laughter.” Highlights of Elmira 2017 included over 65 delivered papers; 7 special panels (including representatives from The Mark Twain Project and The Mark Twain House and Museum); a screening of the movie “Band of Robbers” with a Q&A by the writers/directors Aaron and Adam Nee; and keynote address by Ben Tarnoff, author of The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature (Penguin, 2014), frequent contributor to The Guardian, and founder of Logic, a magazine about technology.


Elmira 2013: The Seventh International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies

The title of the conference was “One Man, Many Legacies: ‘Yours Dreamily, Mark Twain'” and observed the sesquicentennial of the Pen-name. Highlights of Elmira 2013 included over 80 delivered papers; an exhibition opening “Mark Twain and the West,” curated by Victor Fischer (Mark Twain Papers and Project); a screening of the documentary film “Holbrook/Twain” with Hal Holbrook in attendance; and a keynote address by Peter Kaminsky, co-creator of The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, former managing editor of National Lampoon, award-winning journalist, and author/editor of a wide variety of books, including a collection of Mark Twain’s travel writing The Chicago of Europe and Other Tales of Foreign Travel (Union Square Press, 2009).


Elmira 2009: The Sixth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies

The tile of the conference was “The Worlds of Mark Twain” and observed the centennial of the death of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Highlights of Elmira 2009 included over 70 delivered papers; 5 special panels; a music performance based on Kerry Driscoll’s scholarship “Mark Twain’s Music Box”; the exhibit “Mark Twain in the Comics,” curated by M. Thomas Inge; and a keynote address by Russell Banks, prolific writer of fiction, including Continental Drift (1985), Affliction (1989), The Sweet Hereafter (1991), Rule of the Bone (1995), and Cloudsplitter (1998). He is also the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the John Dos Passos Award and the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Elmira 2005: The Fifth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies

Highlights of the conference included over 50 delivered papers; 5 special panels; a showing of the CBS Playhouse 90 production of “The Shape of the River” (originally aired in 1960) with an introduction by Mark Dawidziak; and a keynote address by Ron Powers, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of numerous works including Mark Twain: A Life (Free Press, 2005).


Elmira 2001: The Fourth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies

Highlights included over 50 delivered papers; scholar-led teaching discussion groups; an exhibit of items from the Nick Karanovich Mark Twain collection; a preview of excerpts from the the Ken Burns film Mark Twain, followed by a Q &A with Ken Burns; and a concluding dinner celebrating Lou Budd’s 80th birthday.


Elmira 1997: The Third Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies

The conference celebrated the centennial of Following the Equator. Highlights included over 40 delivered papers; scholar led teaching discussion groups; the theatrical premier of “Mark Twain: A Sketch Book”; and a keynote address by Hamlin Hill, author of Mark Twain: God’s Fool (Harper & Row, 1973).


Elmira 1994: A Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies

The conference saluted the lifetime achievements of Louis J. Budd, long-time editor of American Literature and author of Mark Twain: Social Philosopher (1962) and Mark Twain: The Making of His Public Personality (1983) and the tenth anniversary of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Highlights included over 24 delivered papers, scholar led teaching discussion groups, and a keynote address by Louis J. Budd.


Elmira 1989: Mark Twain and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: American Issues, 1889-1989

The inaugural conference hosted by the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Highlights included over 10 delivered papers, teaching workshops for secondary, undergraduate, and graduate teachers; a showing of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” starring Will Rogers, followed by commentary from Reba Collins, Director of the Will Rogers Memorial; a juried photo competition, a trip to see the Mark Twain Musical Drama”; and a keynote address from Justin Kaplan, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain (1966).