The 2018 Quarry Farm Symposium: American Literary History & Economics in The New Gilded Age

The economic expansion of the U.S. during Mark Twain’s lifetime was unprecedented, in this country or any other. Twain was famously 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 service, 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 the 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 will feature scholars who explore the intersections of economic history, economic theory, mass media, and literature.

The symposium will begin on Friday, October 5, 2018, with a dinner in Meier Hall on the Elmira College campus, followed by a keynote address by David Sloan Wilson, who is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology & Anthropology at Binghamton University, as well as co-founder of The Evolution Institute and, and author of numerous books, most recently Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes, & the Welfare of Others.

The symposium will continue throughout the next day in the tranquil atmosphere of Quarry Farm, where breakfast, lunch, and dinner will also be served. Registrants will be invited back to Quarry Farm on Sunday morning to enjoy an autumnal breakfast and casual discussions.

Click here for further details and registration.

We are proud to partner with the journal American Literary Historyedited by Gordon Hutner and published by Oxford University Press. ALH will be compiling a special issue on the same topic in 2019.

Also, as part of our ongoing commitment to supporting emerging scholars, a selected number of graduate students will be offered free registration and complimentary on-campus housing. For more information, see registration form.

We look forward to welcoming the following scholars:


Larry Howe is Professor of English at Roosevelt University, where he teaches courses in American literature, African-American literature, Canadian literature, and Film Studies. He is the author of Mark Twain and the Novel (Cambridge, 1998), Refocusing Chaplin: A Screen Icon Through Critical Lenses (Scarecrow, 2013), and co-editor with Henry Wonham of Mark Twain & Money: Language, Capital, & Culture (U. Alabama, 2017). He is Vice President of the Mark Twain Circle and Editor of Studies in American Humor, published by Penn State University Press. In 2014-15, he was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair of American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.


Matt Seybold is Assistant Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College and editor of He is co-editor with Michelle Chihara of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics. His econo-literary scholarship has been published by Aeon Magazine, American Studies, boundary 2, Henry James Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Mark Twain Annual, T.S. Eliot Studies Annual, and Western Humanities Review. He is currently working on a book about the “rhyme of crisis” in U.S. capitalism.



Henry Wonham is Professor fo English at University of Oregon. He is co-editor with Larry Howe of Mark Twain & Money (U. Alabama, 2017) and editor of the new Norton Critical Edition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (2018). Other publications include Playing the Races: Ethnic Caricture and American Literary Realism (Oxford, 2004) and Mark Twain and the Art of the Tall Tale (Oxford, 1993), as well as numerous essays and editorial work on Mark Twain, Henry James, Charles Chesnutt, and others. Prof. Wonham is also Associate Editor of American Literary Realism and a contributed the “Economics of American Literary Realism” chapter to the Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics.



Michael Anesko is Professor of English & American Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He has published extensively on Anglo-American literary culture, including five books that have established critical benchmarks in their respective fields: “Friction with the Market”: Henry James and the Profession of Authorship (Oxford, 1986); Letters, Fictions, Lives: Henry James and William Dean Howells (Oxford, 1997); The French Face of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Monsieur de l’Aubépine and His Second Empire Critics (Ohio State, 2011); Monopolizing the Master: Henry James and the Politics of Modern Literary Scholarship (Stanford, 2012); and, most recently, Generous Mistakes: Incidents of Error in Henry James (Oxford, 2017). He is a General Editor of the Cambridge Edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James and has prepared a new authoritative text of The Portrait of a Lady (2016) for that series. He is also now Co-General Editor of The Complete Letters of Henry James, published by the University of Nebraska Press.


Mary Balkun is Professor & Chair of English at Seton Hall University. She is author of The American Counterfeit: Authenticity and Identity in American Literature and Culture (U. Alabama, 2016), as well as articles on Phillis Wheatley, Sarah Kemble Knight, Walt Whitman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner. She contributed the “Print Revolution & Paper Money” chapter to the Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics. She is also associate editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry (2005). Her interests include material culture, gender studies, women’s travel narratives, and identity construction. She is currently working on a study of the grotesque in early American Literature.


Nathaniel Cadle is Associate professor of English at Florida International University. He is the author of The Mediating Nation:  Late American Realism, Globalization, and the Progressive State (UNC, 2014), winner of the 2015 SAMLA Studies Book Award. His current book project, tentatively entitled Realism, the Romantic Revival, and the Rise of Modernism, examines the popular revival of historical, utopian, and other forms of romantic fiction at the turn of the twentieth century and its impact on the transition from literary realism to modernism. The research for this project has been supported by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Cadle’s most recent work is forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Realism (2019).


Gregg Camfield is Professor of English & Vice Provost of Faculty at University of California – Merced. He has published widely on American literature and culture, from 18th century poet Joel Barlow to the television cartoon Beavis and Butt-Head. Mostly he has worked on the ethical and esthetic debates of the nineteenth-century, concentrating on the works of Mark Twain, American literary humor, literary sentimentalism and domesticity. These perspectives inform his three books, Sentimental Twain: Mark Twain in the Maze of Moral Philosophy (U. Penn, 1994), Necessary Madness: The Humor of Domesticity in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Oxford, 1997), and The Oxford Companion to Mark Twain (2003). Currently he is carrying forward the implications of the second book in a study of what new discoveries in neuroscience can tell us about how people respond to literature and other complex artistic representations.


Ranjit Dighe is Professor of Economics at SUNY – Oswego, where he specializes in U.S. economic history, macroeconomics, and sports economics. He is author of The Historian’s Huck Finn: Reading Mark Twain’s Masterpiece as Social & Economic History (Praeger, 2016) and The Historian’s Wizard of Oz: Reading L. Frank Baum’s Classic as a Political & Monetary Allegory (Praeger, 2002). He has also published several papers on wages, prohibition, and Keynesianism during the Great Depression.



Sean X. Goudie is Associate Professor of English & Director of the Center for American Literary Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He is author of Creole America: The West Indies & The Formation of Literature & Culture in the New Republic (U. Penn, 2006), which won the MLA Prize for a First Book. Under his directorship, CALS has undertaken many important initiatives, including the founding of C19: the Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists and the First Book Institute. His current book project, entitled The Banana Republic, examines a range of cultural responses produced both in the Caribbean and in North America to the expansion of several US corporations into the Caribbean and the Caribbean Basin during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


Sheri-Marie Harrison is Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri where she researches and teaches Caribbean literary and cultural studies, Contemporary global Anglophone literature, and mass culture of the African Diaspora. Her first book Difficult Subjects: Negotiating Sovereignty in Postcolonial Jamaican Literature was published by the Ohio State University Press in 2014, and her research has been published in various venues including Modern Fiction Studies, Small Axe, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia and Los Angeles Review of Books. She currently serves as a member of University of Missouri Press advisory board, an elected member of the Postcolonial Studies forum of the Modern Languages Association, and the motherboard of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. She has a forthcoming chapter in the multi-volume edited collection Caribbean Literature in Transition and is also currently working on a manuscript tentatively titled After the Beginning Ends: Contemporary Fiction and Iconoclasm.


Christian Kloeckner is Lecturer in North American Studies at Universitat Bonn, as well as a Feodor Lynen Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Barnard College and Columbia University in 2017-2018. He has also received Fulbright American Studies grants for research at Harvard and New York University in 2013-2014. He is author of The Writing of Terrorism: Contemporary American Fiction & Maurice Blanchot (Peter Lang, 2017) and has contributed both essays and editorial work to numerous collections and special issues, notably Beyond 9/11: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Twenty-First Century U.S. American Culture (Peter Lang, 2013), Knowledge Landscapes North America (U. Heidelberg, 2016), and a forthcoming special issue of Finance & Society on “Financial Times.” He current book project focuses on credit, debt, and nostalgia in American culture.


Andrew Kopec is Assistant Professor of English at Purdue University – Fort Wayne. His scholarship, exploring the relationship between early American literature and the market, has appeared in Early American Literature, ELH, ESQ, PMLA, and The Eighteenth Century. He authored the “Assymetric Information” chapter in The Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics. His book-in-progress, “The Pace of Panic: American Romanticism & The Business Cycle,” contributes to a financial turn among Americanists by examining how romantic texts responded to, even exploited, the panics that punctuate life before the Civil War. In doing so, the book reveals the surprising resonances of texts typically dismissed as economically naïve.


Ann Ryan, Professor is O’Connell Professor of the Humanities at Le Moyne College. She is co-editor with Joseph McCullough of Cosmopolitan Twain (U. Missouri, 2008) and frequent contributor to journals and collections, including Mark Twain & Money (U. Alabama, 2017). She is an emeritus editor of Mark Twain Annual and past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America. In 2013, she was recognized as the seventh Henry Nash Smith Fellow for her lasting contributions to Mark Twain Studies.



David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology & Anthropology at Binghamton University, as well as co-founder and President of the Evolution Institute, co-fouder of, and editor-in-cheif of This View of Life magazine. His books, many of which include interdisciplinary engagement with economic history and theory, include Darwin’s Cathedral (U. Chicago, 2002), Evolution for Everyone (Delacorte, 2007), The Neighborhood Project (Little Brown & Co., 2011), and Does Altruism Exist? (Yale, 2015). He is also co-editor of The Literary Animal (Northwestern, 2005) with Jonathan Gottschall and Pathological Altruism (Oxford, 2011).


Don’t miss out on the opportunity to join our symposium and engage with the work of this impressive roster of scholars. Space is limited. Register now!