Walker’s Trouble Begins Lecture Now Available

The spring 2024 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) continued on Wednesday, May 15 at Quarry Farm and will continue each Wednesday through May. The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website.

Rafael Walker, Assistant Professor of English at Baruch College, City University of New York, will presented The Mixed-Race Fiction of Charles Chesnutt and Mark Twain.”

Walker delves into Mark Twain’s novel Pudd’nhead Wilson by putting it into context with the issues of race in the 1890s. Walker also compares Twain to one of his contemporaries, Charles Waddell Chesnutt. Both authors wrote fiction demonstrating the arbitrariness of race, at a time when many of their compatriots were insisting on its primacy. The stakes were different for Twain, who was trying to be a good citizen while Chesnutt (a man fair enough to pass for white but who let himself be identified as black) was fighting for his life and the lives of others like him. Both authors are counted among the first to have moved beyond propaganda in portraying mixed-race characters and yet both of their novels are often unliked. Walker suggests that the disorderliness of both their works is less the result of carelessness than the product of the disorderliness of their subject matter—race in an era convinced that the concept mattered yet couldn’t be consistently defined.

Rafael Walker is Assistant Professor of English at Baruch College, City University of New York, where he is also affiliate faculty in both the Department of Black and Latino Studies and in the Program and Women and Gender Studies. He has published on many topics both in American literature and in higher education, his work appearing in varied venues, such as MELUSArizona Quarterly, J19, Twentieth-Century Literature, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, to name a few. He has put together a critical edition of Kate Chopin’s work, The Awakening and Other Stories (published with Warbler Press Classics) and a new edition of Nella Larsen’s Passing for Broadview Press. Walker is working on two book-length monographs—one on the American realist novel and the other on biraciality in American culture. He also has served on the editorial board for J19: The Journal for the Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists.

The Trouble Begins Lectures are open to the public and begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Barn at Quarry Farm. The Series will continue on Wednesdays throughout May with recordings of each posted to the CMTS website.

Upcoming 2024 Spring Trouble Begins Lectures:

  • Wed., May 22: “Mark Twain’s 70th at Delmonico’s: The Dawn of a New Era in American Literature” by Tess Chakkalakal, Bowdoin College.
  • Wed., May 29: “Mark Twain’s Caste Studies in Following the Equator” by Susan Gillman, University of California, Santa Cruz. 

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.