The Center For Mark Twain Studies has long been dedicated to producing and subsidizing programming on Mark Twain, American Humor, American Literature, and American history. While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to suspend our in-person programming indefinitely, we have already hosted the 2020 Summer Teachers Institute, the 2020 Park Church Lectures, the 2020 Quarry Farm Symposium, and the 2020 Trouble Begins Lectures in digital spaces.
Recognizing that producing and distributing audio-visual scholarship is likely to remain part of our mission for the foreseeable future, we are excited to launch a new project: The American Vandal Podcast. The first season of the podcast will run from now until the middle of December, during which you will be able to hear interviews, conversations, arguments, and stories about not only Mark Twain, but many other topics related to his life and legacy.
The first two episodes are now available for download. Both feature papers from “The Viral Twain” panel which is taking places at the Virtual C19 conference this coming weekend. In our inaugural episode, Matt Seybold, Assistant Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College (and host of The American Vandal), tells the story of a militant abolitionist who nearly committed suicide in Richmond in 1854, but was persuaded by an obscure, self-published novelist to persist. He went on to become the greatest publicist of his generation. His clients included both Mark Twain and John Brown.
In the second episode, Todd Nathan Thompson, Professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, takes a closer look at the coverage of Twain’s first lecture tour, in 1866, during which he discussed his recent travels to Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands). Many of Twain’s jokes were reprinted in newspapers across the country, but, as Dr. Thompson shows, they were often decontextualized or even altered in ways that obscured the overarching message.
The latter half of episode two features actor, biographer, and media critic, Mark Dawidziak, who brings together two of his passions, Mark Twain and classic horror, in this case Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dawidziak explores the relationship between Twain and Stoker, speculating that the former made a guest appearance in the latter’s famous novel.
The American Vandal is a production of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Additional engineering has been provided by Resonate Recordings. The theme music for Season One was composed by Steve Webb.