CMTS’ Own, Barbara Snedecor, To Present at Next Park Church Lecture

The 2018 Park Church Lecture Series, hosted by the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, begins Wednesday, June 20 in the historic and cultural landmark, The Park Church, 208 W. Gray Street, Elmira.  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“’…there is only one thing of real importance…’: The Letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens” Barbara Snedecor, Elmira College

Olivia Langdon Clemens

The letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens reveal her deep emotion as well as the more ordinary impulses of her thought. In communications with friends and family, and with her world- famous spouse, Olivia exposes her intelligence, fortitude, gentleness, kindness, humor, love for husband and children—along with her anxieties, self-deprecation, and flaws. Possibly the following statement, written to her husband during their plunge towards bankruptcy, best indicates her world view: “I feel so strongly these days that we have not a great while to stay here and that there is only one thing of real importance to us. To do all the good that we can and leave an irreproachable name behind us” (9 April 1893). The presentation will summarize critical views of Olivia as well as highlight selections from her letters.

Barbara Snedecor directed the Center for Mark Twain Studies and was an Assistant Professor of American Literature at Elmira College. In 2015, she was awarded the Living Heritage Award by the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce. In 2017, she received the Henry Nash Smith Award. She has published novels, personal essays, and poetry as well as Mark Twain in Elmira, Second Edition, and scholarly essays connected with Mark Twain Studies. She currently is preparing a collection of the letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens for publication.

About 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 members 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.  Currently, it is an “Open and Affirming Congregation,” welcoming all people to worship and participate in its communal life, regardless of ethnic origin, race, class, age, ability, gender, or sexual orientation.

About the Center for Mark Twain Studies
The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded in January 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by Jervis Langdon, the great-grand-nephew of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The Center offers distinctive programs to foster and support Mark Twain scholarship and to strengthen the teaching of Mark Twain at all academic levels. The Center serves the Elmira College community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain.

2018 Park Church Summer Lectures

The 2018 Park Church Summer Lecture Series

Previous “Park Church” and “Trouble Begins” lectures can be found and downloaded in the “Trouble Begins” Archives” or by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 13 at the Park Church 7 p.m.

“Fingerprints and Microbe Time: Mark Twain and Scientific Skepticism”

James W. Leonard, The Citadel

Linnaeus Manuscript

It is well known that Twain took contemporary social, political, and particularly racial beliefs to task through an incisive skepticism which outpaced many of his generation. But Twain also understood the role that science and empiricism played in the formation and justification of social projects. Like many of his time, he was thrilled by the explosion of new technologies and systems that characterized the 19th century. For example, we know from his personal writings how excited he was to include Francis Galton’s discovery of fingerprinting in Pudd’nhead Wilson. But even in that excitement, Twin never lost sight of his characteristic skepticism, and a closer look at his literary portrayal of science reveals a visionary’s understanding of how empirical facts- -and the systems organizing those facts–would be increasingly scrutinized as social and political tools in literature of the 20th century.

James W. Leonard recently received his PhD from Tufts University and is currently an adjunct professor of English at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. While much of his research focuses on 20th-century authors (particularly Djuna Barnes, Cormac McCarthy, and Leslie Marmon Silko), he is particularly interested in Mark Twain’s capacity for identifying and articulating complex forms of social critique that would only be popularized years after his death. His current research on Twain looks at his insistence on filtering empiricism through satire.

 

Wednesday, June 20 at the Park Church 7 p.m. 

“’…there is only one thing of real importance…’: The Letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens”

Barbara Snedecor, Elmira College

Olivia Langdon Clemens

The letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens reveal her deep emotion as well as the more ordinary impulses of her thought. In communications with friends and family, and with her world- famous spouse, Olivia exposes her intelligence, fortitude, gentleness, kindness, humor, love for husband and children—along with her anxieties, self-deprecation, and flaws. Possibly the following statement, written to her husband during their plunge towards bankruptcy, best indicates her world view: “I feel so strongly these days that we have not a great while to stay here and that there is only one thing of real importance to us. To do all the good that we can and leave an irreproachable name behind us” (9 April 1893). The presentation will summarize critical views of Olivia as well as highlight selections from her letters.

Barbara Snedecor directed the Center for Mark Twain Studies and was an Assistant Professor of American Literature at Elmira College. In 2015, she was awarded the Living Heritage Award by the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce. In 2017, she received the Henry Nash Smith Award. She has published novels, personal essays, and poetry as well as Mark Twain in Elmira, Second Edition, and scholarly essays connected with Mark Twain Studies. She currently is preparing a collection of the letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens for publication.

 

Wednesday, July 11 at the Park Church 7 p.m.

“Mark Twain and The Native Other”

Kerry Driscoll, University of St. Joseph

In his 1899 essay “Concerning the Jews,” Twain states: I am quite sure that (bar one) I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed, I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being—that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse.” Although the writer refused to name the one bias he admits to harboring, abundant evidence in his work suggests that the allusion is to Native Americans, whom he referred to in print as “reptiles, “vermin,” and “good, fair, desirable subject[s] for extermination.” This presentation explores the origin and evolution of Twain’s attitudes toward indigenous peoples and probes the reasons underlying his animus.

Kerry Driscoll is Professor of English (emerita) at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT. She is the past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America, a member of the editorial board for the Circle’s journal, the Mark Twain Annual, and serves on the Board of Trustees at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford. In addition to numerous essays she has published on Twain’s work, she is the author of Mark Twain among the Indians and Other Indigenous Peoples (University of California Press, 2018), the first book-length study of the author’s conflicted attitudes toward, and representations of, Native Americans.

The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded in January 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by Jervis Langdon, the great-grand-nephew of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The Center offers distinctive programs to foster and support Mark Twain scholarship and to strengthen the teaching of Mark Twain at all academic levels. The Center serves the Elmira community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain.

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. Currently, it is a United Church of Christ open and affirming congregation, welcoming all people to worship and participate in its communal life, regardless of ethnic origin, race, class, age, ability, gender, or sexual orientation.

 

For a PDF copy of the 2018 Park Church Summer Lectures lineup, click here.

 

Barbara Snedecor Receives the Henry Nash Smith Award

The Henry Nash Smith Award is given to a Twain scholar who has demonstrated exemplary service to the Center for Mark Twain Studies.  During Elmira 2017: The Eighth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies, the Henry Nash Smith Award was given to Dr. Barbara Snedecor.

Dr. Snedecor earned her PhD while working full-time at Elmira College as a Writing Lecturer, Associate Director of the Writing Program, ESL Director, and then Director for the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Her dissertation was an annotated critical edition of Olivia Langdon’s letters.  She wrote an important article on Twain’s “A True Story Repeated Word for Word As I Heard It” which has proven to be fundamentally important to the work and legacy of CMTS. Her scholarly interest has been focused on Olivia Langdon and the life she lived in Elmira. She has contributed to the Mark Twain Annual and American Literary Realism and is the editor of the second edition of Mark Twain in Elmira.

While her scholarly work is noteworthy, it is her role as Director of the Center that merited this award.  Under Snedecor’s eleven-year tenure as Director she personally initiated a number of programs and achievements which we continue to benefit from today:

  • The Mark Twain Literacy Program, which helps place hundreds of Mark Twain books in the classroom of local teachers at no cost to the teachers or students
  • The creation of a digital archive of “Trouble Begins at Eight” lectures.
  • The creation of the Mark Twain Summer Teacher’s Institute, which educates regional teachers, reinforcing Mark Twain’s legacy for local students in a meaningful, deliberate, knowledgeable way.
  • The facilitation and solidification of the quadrennial conference as an international, rigorous academic conference.
  • The facilitation of a number of  Mark Twain symposia, including symposia on “The Mysterious Stranger,” Mark Twain’s travel writings, Twain’s biography and autobiography, and the memory of Twain scholar and Elmira College professor, Michael Kiskis.
  • Installing permanent exhibit of Clemens and Langdon related artifacts in Cowles Hall.

Dr. Snedecor undoubtedly steered CMTS in a positive direction. She proved to be a keen budget manager and handed over a financial situation which gives CMTS the potential to complete numerous new, large-scale projects.

The most important legacy of Barbara Snedecor is the goodwill she has fostered with in the Twain academic community and local Elmira community.  Dr. Snedecor’s professional goodwill and grace has impressed many. While her hardworking benevolence is appreciated by everyone who gets to know her, it also had a pragmatic side. Scholars were willing to work with her, a vitally important quality for the CMTS Director responsible for scheduling Quarry Farm Fellowships and the “Trouble Begins” lecture series.

Dr. Snedecor grew and solidified various functions of CMTS for over a decade. The current staff and the Twain scholarly community at large are very grateful for her service.