Seybold concludes the 2020 Trouble Begins Lectures

The fall portion of the 2020-2021 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies concludes with a presentation by Dr. Matthew Seybold, assistant professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College.

During the mid-1860s, Mark Twain waged a prolonged and inflammatory media war against the San Francisco Police. By some accounts his campaign led directly to the replacement of the SFPD’s longtime Commissioner, as well as broader reforms which were later adopted by departments across the nation. During the same years Twain was excoriating the SFPD, his future publicist, James Redpath, was participating in the occupation and reconstruction of Confederate Charleston. From Redpath’s perspective, the prosperity of Charleston after the Civil War depended upon annihilating the institutions of its past, including the police force which had been formed explicitly to patrol and punish the enslaved population. In his talk, Dr. Seybold uses Twain and Redpath as lenses for comparing the history of policing in these two U.S. cities, separated by nearly 3,000 miles, as well as by contrasting demographics, economies, and cultural institutions. What can their histories teach us about the often antagonistic relationship between the media and the police in our own time?

Seybold is Assistant Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, as well as resident scholar at the Center for Mark Twain Studies and editor of He is co-editor of the Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics (2018) and a 2019 special issue of American Literary History on “Economics & Literary Studies in the New Gilded Age.” Other recent publications can be found in Aeon, American Studies, boundary 2, Criticism, Henry James Review, Leviathan, Los Angeles Review of Books, Mark Twain Annual, Reception, and T.S. Eliot Studies Annual. He is current working on a book about the political economy of mass media in America’s Gilded Ages, tentatively titled “The Rhyme of Crisis: Mark Twain & the Networks of Disunion.”

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series – In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series. The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures 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. All lectures are free and open to the public.