Past Quarry Farm Symposia

Starting in 2008, the Center for Mark Twain Studies has hosted a number of symposia on specific topics in Mark Twain Studies. These symposia offer scholars the opportunity to spend a few days deeply delving into a specific aspect of Mark Twain Studies. Several speakers, usually experts in their specific academic field, give papers throughout the gathering, often followed by roundtable discussions.


Sixth Quarry Farm Symposium “Mark Twain and Nature”

October 4 to October 6, 2019

The natural world figures prominently in the writings of Mark Twain, whether as the main object of description and commentary as in Life on the Mississippi and Roughing It or as an inextricable element of fictional narratives such as The Adventures of Tom SawyerAdventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and more. However, these writings (other than short excerpts from Life and Roughing It) rarely find their way into anthologies of nature writing. And yet, Twain’s writing about the natural world across his literary oeuvre provides prescient and germane commentary on the relationship between human beings and the natural world—revealing it to be a conflicted a relationship of antagonism and praise. On the one hand, he seemed at war with nature: “The purpose of all human laws is one—to defeat the laws of Nature.” On the other hand, he expressed both awe and respect for the power of the natural world: “Architects cannot teach nature anything,” and “Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.”

CMTS’s Sixth Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium was organized by Ben Click (St. Mary’s College of Maryland) and offered various critical examinations of the natural world in Twain’s writing: as nature writing similar to the ecocritical discourse of Thoreau, Dillard, and Abbey; as exploration of the aesthetic nexus between art and nature; as commentary on animal welfare; and as analysis of the intersection between nature and culture. Moreover, the papers cut across all periods of Twain’s writing life and furthered the claim of Twain as a forerunner to mid-20th to early 21st century writers such as Krutch, Cuppy, Abbey, Kingsolver, Quammen, and Gessner who now offer comic responses to nature as well as recognize the intrinsically humorous place of humanity in nature.

CMTS partnered with Mark Twain Annual, and a number of the presenters will be featured in a special issue of the Annual in 2019.

Michael P. Branch delivered the keynote address. Branch is a writer of creative nonfiction and humor, who focuses on the environment and the life in the American West. Branch is also professor of literature and environment at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has published five books and more than two hundred essays, articles, and reviews.

The following are all the papers presented during the symposium. CMTS is confident that this group of lectures will encourage scholars to reconsider Mark Twain as a person who is deeply sensitive and has complex ideas about the environment, nature aesthetics, wilderness, animal welfare, and other topics pertaining to the natural world.

  • J.Mark Baggett, “‘Practicing the Wild’: Twain and Thoreau at the Lakes (October 5, 2019 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Katherine E. Bishop, “‘A Wilderness of Oil Pictures’: Reframing Nature in A Tramp Abroad” (October 5, 2019 – Quarry Farm Barn) Lecture Images
  • Michael. P. Branch, “Made in Nevada” (Keynote Address – October 4, 2019 – Cowles Hall – Elmira College Campus) Video Clip
  • Charles C. Bradshaw, “Animal Welfare and the Democratic Frontier: Mark Twain’s Condemnation of Bullfighting in A Horse’s Tale” (October 5, 2019 – Quarry Farm Barn) Lecture Images
  • Ryan Heryford, “‘the breath of flower that perished’: The Imperial Ecologies of Mark Twain’s Early Letters” (October 5, 2019 – Quarry Farm Barn) Lecture Images
  • Barbara Ladd, “‘Night after Night, Day after Day’: Mark Twain and the Natural World” (October 5, 2019 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Delphine Louise-Dimitrov, “Nature in Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc: Pastoralism Revisited” (October 5, 2019 – Quarry Farm Barn) Lecture Images
  • Don James McLaughlin, “Microphobias: Medicine after Miasma in Twain’s 3,000 Years among the Microbes” (October 5, 2019 – Quarry Farm Barn) Lecture Images
  • Lisa Vandenbossche, “Nature as Historian in Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii” (October 5, 2019 – Quarry Farm Barn)
  • Emily E. VanDette, “‘A Dog’s Tale’ in Context: Twain & the Transatlantic Anti-Vivisection Campaign” (October 5, 2019 – Quarry Farm Barn)

Fifth Quarry Farm Symposium “American Literary History and Economics in the New Gilded Age”

October 5 to October 7, 2018

The economic expansion of the U.S. during Mark Twain’s lifetime was unprecedented, in this country or any other. Twain was fascinated by the technological innovations that transformed commerce and industry, the volatile financial markets that strained to keep up with the demands of entrepreneurs and investors, the infamous magnates that accumulated private fortunes unimaginable to previous generations, the corrosive symbiosis of private wealth and public servants, the precarious plight of consumers and laborers who both drove the economy and were periodically driven over by it, and the fledgling field of philosophical inquiry, political economy, aimed at understanding the organizing principles of capitalist society.

Before anybody suspected he would become the literary figure who defined this era, Twain gave it its lasting nickname, the Gilded Age, recognizing that the luxurious lifestyles of America’s nouveau riche celebrities and the bedazzling technologies advertised by American entrepreneurs disguised deep disparities of wealth, exploitative employment practices, systemic corruption, and widespread financial fraud. As we find ourselves in what is now frequently called “The New Gilded Age,” characterized by many of the same phenomena, CMTS’s Fifth Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium featured scholars who explore the intersections of economic history, economic theory, mass media, and literature.

The symposium was organized by Henry B. Wonham (University of Oregon), Lawrence Howe (Roosevelt University), and Matt Seybold (Elmira College). Wonham and Howe’s collection, Mark Twain & Money, was published in 2017, while Seybold’s Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics (coedited with Michelle Chihara) was just published this year.

Professor Matt Seybold (Elmira College) kicked off the talks with an introductory address.  Dr. Seybold’s talk can be found here.  The opening reception was highlighted by David Sloan Wilson (Distinguished Professor of Biology & Anthropology at Binghamton University) delivering the keynote address “Mark Twain, Cultural Multilevel Selection, and the New Gilded Age.”  This provocative talk challenged literary scholars to theorize the multilevel selection of systems of meaning and maladaptive economic systems.  An audio-recording of Professor Wilson’s talk can be found here.

A number of the talks were recorded, including the following:

  • 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)

Other papers included:

  • Nathaniel Cadle, “Imaging Equality: Edward Bellamy in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries”
  • Ranjit Dighe, “Gilded Ages Then and Now: Continuity and Change”
  • Lawrence Howe, “Mark Twain and Estate Planning”
  • Christian Kloeckner, “The (New) Golden Ages: Forms and Functions of Economic Nostalgia”

Fourth Quarry Farm Symposium “Mark Twain and Youth”

October 7 to October 9, 2016

More than 45 scholars and enthusiasts from around the globe gathered to hear presentations, expereince Quarry Farm, and share a general fondness of all-things Mark Twain. The co-chairs of the symposium were Kevin MacDonnell and Kent Rasmussen, the co-editors of Mark Twain and Youth: Studies in His Life and Writings (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2016).

The keynote speaker was Jon Clinch. His first novel, Finn – the secret history of Huckleberry Finn’s father – was named an American Library Association Notable Book and was chosen as one of the year’s best books by the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and The Christian Science Monitor. It won the Philadelphia Athenaeum Literary Award and was short-listed for the Sargent First Novel Prize. Some of this other works include Kings of the Earth, The Thief of Auschwitz, and Belzoni Dreams of Egypt.

The presentations from the scholars covered topics such as Twain’s novel Prince and the Pauper, his imapct on American cultural identity, as well as insights into Samuel Clemens as a child, a parent, and the lives of his children.

The following papers were delivered in the Barn at Quarry Farm:

  • John Bird, “‘We Are a Very Happy Family’: Sam and Livy as Parents”
  • Joseph Csicsila, “Langdon Clemens and Mark Twain’s Discovery of a River and a Town”
  • Hugh Davis, “A Tale for Young People of All Ages: The Prince and the Pauper and Youth”
  • Mark Dawidziak, “Mark Twain and the Movies”
  • Alan Gribben, “Samuel Clemens’s Earliest Reading Experiences”
  • Ronald Jenn, “Joan of Arc, Written in France”
  • Andrew Levy, “Mark Twain and the Idea of American Identity”
  • Peter Messent, “Projecting a Future: Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and America”
  • Patrick Ober, “Health, Disease, and Children in Mark Twain’s Life and Writings”
  • John Pascal, “A New Generation’s Tickers to Mark Twain’s Steamboat, Stagecoach, and Steamship”
  • Lucy Rollin, “The Man of the Century – Twice”

Third CMTS Symposium “Complicating Twain: Biography, Autobiography and the Personal Scholar”

October 19 and October 20, 2012

The third CMTS Symposium was dedicated to the memory of Michael J. Kiskis.

The gathering was organized by Kerry Driscoll and Ann Ryan. The keynote address, “Come Back to the Raft Ag’in, Michael Honey,” was given by Laura Skandera Trombley.

The following papers were in the Peterson Chapel in Historic Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus:

  • Jed Dobson, “What does the ‘Temporal Turn’ mean for Autobiography? Mark Twain, Memory, and the Failures of Historicism”
  • Kerry Driscoll, “Mark Twain and the Maori”
  • A.B. Effgen, “Suffering Shelley’s Missionaries: Mark Twain and the Cult of Personality”
  • Lawrence Howe, “Real Property and Fictional Land: The Fact and the Fiction of the Tennessee Land”
  • Sharon D. McCoy, “‘Like real chums’: Twain’s Relations with African Americans in Elmira’s Domestic Circle”
  • Bruce Michelson, “Young Realists in a New Virtual Age”
  • Linda A. Morris, “‘The Hour of Lead’: Mark Twain and Grief”
  • Ann Ryan, “Fear and Loathing: The Gothic of Jim”
  • Gary Sharnhorst, “Mark Twain and Julian Hawthorne”
  • Barbara Snedecor, “Real and Imagined Guilt in ‘The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut'”
  • Jeffrey Steinbrink, “Running with Coyotes”
  • Thomas L. Wilmeth, “The ‘Slandered Dogs’ & ‘Forgettable Birds’ of Mark Twain’s Travel Books”

Second CMTS Symposium “en route: Mark Twain’s Travel Books: A Tramp Abroad and Following the Equator

October 15 and Ocotber 16, 2010

The symposium organizer was Terry Oggel. The keynote speaker was Louis J. Budd, who delivered the paper “Tramping Beyond Innocence, Steamboats, and Sagebrush.”

The following papers were delivered in the Tripp Lecture Hall on the Elmira College Campus:

  • Mary Boewe, “Mark Twain’s India: Land of ‘splendor and rags'”
  • Steve Courtney, “Twain, Twichell, and the Butcher Beilstein: After the A Tramp Abroad Trip”
  • Kerry Driscoll, “‘So Much for the Aboriginals’: The Politics of Selective Racial Sympathy in Following the Equator
  • Alex Effgen, “‘Young’ Walter F. Brown: Before, During, and After A Tramp Abroad
  • Dwayne Eutsey, “Following the Equator to the Horizon-Rim of Consciousness: Mark Twain en route to India and Beyond”
  • Holger Kersten, “‘I am no longer ye’: Mark Twain’s Ambivalence about Europe and America in A Tramp Abroad
  • Jeffrey Melton, “Mark Twain, An Artist of the Beautiful”
  • Steve Railton, “All I wanted was to go somewhere”
  • Barbara Snedecor, “I am glad I have traveled so much”
  • Catherine Watson, “From Afar: Private Reasons and Public Voice in Mark Twain’s Travel Writing”

First CMTS Symposium “A Centennial Symposium on Mark Twain’s ‘Mysterious Stranger'”

October 10 and October 11, 2008

The symposium was organized by Joseph Csicsila and Chad Rohman. Alan Gribben gave the keynote address. During the opening reception in Hamilton Hall on the Elmira College campus, Irene Langdon and David Pennock, in the name of Jervis Langdon, Jr., gifted Charles Langdon’s copy of William C. Prime’s Tent Life of the Holy Land, in recognition of the fine work of the Center for Mark wain Studies in fulfilling the specific mission for the use of Quarry Farm.

Mark Twain, in of the letters to The Daily Alta California that eventually formed the basis for The Innocents Abroad, lists Tent Life in the Holy Land by William Cowper Prime among the titles that passengers were instructed to bring with them on the Quaker City excursion. The Prime’s book influenced the composition of The Innocents Abroad has always been clear. In addition to direct references to the title, Clemens minimally disguised the author as “Wm. C. Grimes” in those places in which he is being particularly critical of Prime within Innocents Abroad. Now the emergence of Clemens’s traveling companion Charles Langdon’s copy of Tent Life in the Holy Land with its many pages of marginal notes and markings by Clemens makes it possible for the first time to examine Clemens’s immediate reactions as a reader to a text that is intertwined with his own first full length and highly successful work.

The following papers were delivered in the Tripp Lecture Hall on the Elmira College campus:

  • John Bird, “Dreams and Metaphors in No.44, The Mysterious Stranger
  • Harold K. Bush, Jr., “The Prophetic Imagination, the Liberal Self, and the Ending of No.44, The Mysterious Stranger
  • Gregg Camfield, “‘Transcendental Hedonism?’: Sex, Song, Food and Drink in No.44, The Mysterious Stranger and ‘My Platonic Sweetheart'”
  • Michael J. Kiskis, “Mark Twain and the Accusing Angel: ‘The Chronicle of Young Satan’ and Sam Clemens’ Argument with the Inscrutable”
  • Randall Knoper, “‘Silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks’: Multiple Selves, Worldless Communication, and the Psychology of Mark Twain’s No.44, The Mysterious Stranger
  • Horst Kruse, “Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihl and Mark Twain’s Mysterious Stranger: German Literature and the Composition of the Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts”
  • James S. Leonard, “No.44, The Mysterious Stranger: The Final Soliloquy of a “Littery Man'”
  • Sharon D. McCoy, “‘I ain’ no dread being’: The Minstrel Mask as Alter Ego”
  • Bruce Michelson, “Mark Twain’s Mysterious Strangers and the Motions of the Mind”
  • David E.E. Sloane, “No.44, The Mysterious Stranger as Literary Comedy”
  • David L. Smith, “Samuel Clemens, Duality, and Time Travel”
  • Henry B. Wonham, “Mark Twain’s Last Cakewalk: Racialized Performance in No.44, The Mysterious Stranger