The Trouble Begins Lectures Continue with a Discussion of Twain and Melville

The 2022 Fall Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) will hold its second lecture at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 12 at Quarry Farm (131 Crane Road, Elmira). The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website. 

George Caleb Bingham,“Raftsmen Playing Cards”(1847)
Oil on canvas

The second lecture, “Haunted by the River,” will be presented by Shirley Samuels (Cornell University).

For Mark Twain, the Mississippi River appears as a recursive site of memory and loss. For Herman Melville, in his last, notoriously complicated novel, the transformations enabled by a confidence man on a steamboat called the Fidele become at once bitter satire and a ferocious form of rootlessness. Melville’s novels typically take place on the ocean, but these fictions address a precarious river that runs to the sea. What draws me to considering these works together? Both overlap with violence on shore and lead me to the autobiography known as the story of Black Hawk. To read the face of the river is to read the faces of men on the river, in his account as in others, to anticipate whether they bring violence.

Shirley Samuels teaches at Cornell University. She is the director of American Studies, and teaches courses with Literatures in English, History of Art and Visual Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her books include: Reading the American Novel 1780-1865Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War and Romances of the Republic: Women, the Family, and Violence in the Literature of the Early American Nation. Her edited works include the Cambridge Companion to Abraham LincolnCompanion to American Fiction, 1780-1865The Culture of Sentiment: Race, Gender, and Sentimentality in 19th Century America, and, most recently, Race and Vision in the Nineteenth-Century United States (Lexington, 2019). The working title of her current book project is Haunted by the Civil War.

The 2022 Fall Trouble Begins Lecture Series Schedule:

  • Wednesday, October 19 at Quarry Farm – Martha Lyon, “Slate Mine, Country Estate, and Suburban Home: Evolution of the Landscape at Quarry Farm”
  • Wednesday, October 26 at Quarry Farm, Judith Yaross Lee, “Mr. Stanley, I Presume: Mark Twain’s 1872 Visit to England and His Growth as a Writer”

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins 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, summer and and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm, the Historic Park Church in downtown Elmira, or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

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, Jr., 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.