by Elmira College 1,042 views
Anything But Inoffensive: Mark Twain, the San Francisco Minstrels, and the Unsettling Legacy of Blackface Minstrelsy
The Trouble Begins at Eight is a lecture series held annually in the Fall and Spring of each year. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the Barn at Quarry Farms in Elmira, NY.
Sharon McCoy University of Georgia
Wednesday, May 11th in the Barn at Quarry Farm 8 p.m.
Mark Twain's love of the blackface minstrel show has seemed puzzling and even downright painful, because few aspects of American popular culture have been more offensive -- and more enduring. In the past year alone, blackface has shown up again on Broadway, in dance competitions, on late-night television, and even in cupcake ads. Blackface, it seems, will not go away.
Mark Twain recognized its painful and enduring power almost 150 years ago. He shared the advertising line that marks these lectures, "The Trouble Begins at Eight," with the San Francisco Minstrels, a white blackface troupe that Twain, for over 40 years, singled out as exemplary. While the San Francisco Minstrels invoked racial stereotypes, they also challenged and subverted them. They specialized in a rollicking, ambiguous, improvisational, and often satirical humor that lampooned pretension, corruption, or the ridiculous in current events and contemporary culture. Exploring Twain's love of their performances and his use of the minstrel mask can help us understand why blackface is here to stay, and why it remains anything but
Sharon McCoy, an academic free agent, is president of the American Humor Studies Association and executive coordinator of the Mark Twain Circle, and teaches writing and American literature at the University of Georgia. She is researching and writing a book on Mark Twain and post-bellum blackface minstrelsy, Anything But Inoffensive.
by Elmira College 529 views
Mark Twain on the Brain
Randall Knoper University of Massachusetts Amherst
"Unconscious cerebration," "unconscious plagiarism," "mental telegraphy" -- Mark Twain had various names for what the brain seemingly does beyond our consciousness. Tom Sawyer mutters in his sleep the truth about the murder of Doc Robinson. Tom Canty, the pauper disguised as the prince, reveals his identity to his mother by his uncontrollable reflex action of shielding his eyes when startled. Hank Morgan, the Connecticut Yankee, delights in what he calls "prophecy," which issues from his mouth when he disengages his conscious mind from his talk. Mr. X, a steamboat pilot in Life on the Mississippi, navigates a tricky part of the river while sleepwalking and does it more surely and skillfully than if he had been awake. Pudd'nhead Wilson can't figure out why the fingerprint record for Tom Driscoll changes until he falls asleep, and his unconscious mind supplies the realization that Tom and Chambers were switched in their cradles. This talk will survey Mark Twain's ideas about the unconscious actions of the brain, situate these ideas in the burgeoning physiological psychology of his time, and suggest how Mark Twain can serve as a guide for us, as we encounter new, neuroscientific conceptions of the mind and the unconscious.
Randall Knoper is the author of Acting Naturally: Mark Twain in the Culture of Performance and of various essays about Mark Twain and other authors from the period of American literary realism. He teaches English and American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is currently researching and writing about late nineteenth-century American literature and sciences of the brain and nervous system.
by Elmira College 221 views
Work and Play in Mark Twain
Henry Wonham University of Oregon
Mark Twain was unquestionably among the most prolific and hardest working authors of his era. But did Twain ever really "work" at writing? He consistently identified his creative activities more closely with "play" than with "work" and may even have conceived of writing as antithetical to labor. In this lecture, Professor Wonham will examine Twain's understanding of these sometimes opposed, sometimes interchangeable categories as they operate in and through his fiction.
Henry Wonham is Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of Oregon. He is the author of several books, including Mark Twain and the Art of the Tall Tale and Playing the Races: Ethnic Caricature and American Literary Realism, both published by Oxford University Press.
by Elmira College 131 views
"...the quietest of all quiet places...
Barbara E. Snedecor Elmira College
In a letter to John Brown, a physician friend from Edinburgh, Scotland, Clemens wrote: I wish you were here, to spend the summer with us. We are perched on a hill-top that overlooks a little world of green valleys, shining rivers, sumptuous forests, & billowy uplands veiled in the haze of distance. We have no neighbors. It is the quietest of all quiet places, & we are hermits that eschew caves & live in the sun. (June 22, 1876)
Join Barbara Snedecor as she recounts in words and pictures the familiar tale of courtship, marriage, and of summers spent at Quarry Farm -- the quietest of all quiet places.
by Elmira College 100 views
Mark Twain's Nature in Roughing It, Naturally
Michael Pratt Elmira College
For most of us, the author Mark Twain is indelibly linked with his classic books about two juvenile delinquents, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. The scenes of Tom flimflamming his buddies into whitewashing a fence and Huck and Jim floating down the river to freedom on a raft easily come to mind. What doesn't pop into our heads, however, is Mark Twain's writings about the natural world in its myriad forms. Read any of his travel books and you will find pages, even chapters, filled with his firsthand descriptions of and reactions to Nature's realm. This presentation will survey the styles and themes of Mark Twain's nature writing in his second book, Roughing It. As we explore Mark Twain's nature, an overlooked and undervalued dimension of his writing will emerge that deserves our full attention and appreciation.
by Elmira College 306 views
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc: Mark Twain's Best Book?
David Foster Ashland University
People are always surprised to learn that Mark Twain wrote a long book about Joan of Arc. They are even more surprised to hear that he said it was his best book. Better than Huckleberry Finn, written 14 years earlier? Probably no one today would agree with that view. So, what are we to think of Twain's judgment? Was he being provocative? Was he carried away with some enthusiasm? Or did he just make a big mistake? This lecture will look at the themes of the book and see if a case can't be made for Twain's opinion. That case has to center on the figure of Joan herself, who is depicted in the book as the greatest human being who ever lived.
by Elmira College 207 views
Mark Twain: Words & Music
Cindy Lovell Executive Director, Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum
Mark Twain wrote, "Most of us contain Music & Truth, but most of us can't get it out." Join Cindy Lovell as she describes the trajectory of love and devotion that led to the creation of "Mark Twain: Words & Music" -- a tribute double-CD project comprised of song and spoken word. Using Clemens's language and carefully selected songs (some written especially for the project), two childhood friends set out to create a storied and musical timeline of Clemens's life. Those who lent their voices to this project include Jimmy Buffett, Garrison Keillor, Clint Eastwood, Emmylou Harris, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, and Sheryl Crow. The result is a sampler of narration, story, and Americana music offering a glimpse of Sam's life from comet to comet.
by Elmira College 180 views
Editing Tales from Inside the Mark Twain Project
Victor Fischer Mark Twain Project The Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley
Wednesday, May 23rd in the Barn at Quarry Farm 8 p.m.
With some choice words from Mark Twain about his contemporary editors and proofreaders, Vic will talk about what it means to the Project editors to 'edit' Mark Twain, giving examples that range from The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts (1969) to Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 (2010), with emphasis on Mark Twain's Letters (1988--2002) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, edited by the Project the first time with only half of the manuscript known to survive (published 1985, 1988), and again after the missing half was discovered in a Hollywood attic in late 1990 (published 2001, 2003).
About the Project:
More than forty volumes edited by the Mark Twain Project have been published by the University of California Press to date, and in 2007 the Project launched The Mark Twain Project Online, a web-based edition of Mark Twain's works (marktwainproject.org). The Project is based in the Mark Twain Papers of The Bancroft Library, at the University of California, Berkeley, the world's largest and most comprehensive archive of manuscripts and documents by and about Mark Twain.
Victor Fischer has been an editor at the Mark Twain Project of The Bancroft Library since 1967. Among his most recent publications are the trade and scholarly editions volumes 3 and 4 of Mark Twain's Letters (1992, 1995), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (2001, 2003), Mark Twain's Helpful Hints for Good Living: A Handbook for the Damned Human Race (2004), Mark Twain's Letters, 1876--1880 (2007, web publication only), a special 125th anniversary edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (2010), and, as one of a team of editors, the first volume of the Autobiography of Mark Twain (2010).
Our apologies. There was a problem with the camera and we were unable to record the entire lecture.
by Elmira College 121 views
"The Noblest and Best Man after Washington": The Role of President Abraham Lincoln in Mark Twain's Reconstruction
Joe B. Fulton Baylor University
"One mournful wail is heard from shore to shore; A Nation's heart is stricken to the core," wrote Albert Evans in the April 17, 1865, issue of the San Francisco newspaper the Alta California. Mere days after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Evans expressed the nation's grief with his heartfelt poem, "The Martyr." Not everyone was impressed, least of all Mark Twain, who criticized the poem's ending "Gone! Gone! Gone! Forever and forever!" by writing, "I consider that the chief fault in this poem is that it is ill-balanced—lop-sided, so to speak. There is too much 'gone' in it, and not enough 'forever.'"
With signs of mourning everywhere, most writers were respectful even of bad poetry written about the martyred president. Twain, by contrast, lampooned such poetry, and even joked about Lincoln's assassination. It was only in later years that Twain began using Lincoln's special status as a martyr to exhort the country to live up to the slain president's ideals. Twain's evolving use of Lincoln for satirical purposes charts the evolution of the writer from a "damned secessionist," as one government official called him, to his reconstruction as the "Lincoln of our literature."
Joe B. Fulton is Professor of English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he has been honored as an "Outstanding Professor for Scholarship" and as a "Baylor University Class of 1945 Centennial Professor." Dr. Fulton has published numerous books and articles on American literature. In addition, he has published four books on Mark Twain: Mark Twain's Ethical Realism: The Aesthetics of Race, Class, and Gender (University of Missouri Press, 1997); Mark Twain in the Margins: The Quarry Farm Marginalia and the Composition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (University of Alabama Press, 2000); The Reverend Mark Twain: Theological Burlesque, Form, and Content (The Ohio State University Press, 2006); and The Reconstruction of Mark Twain: How a Confederate Bushwhacker became the Lincoln of our Literature (Louisiana State University Press, 2011), winner of the Jules and Frances Landry Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Southern Studies. The Reconstruction of Mark Twain has also been honored by Choice as an "Outstanding Academic Title."
by Elmira College 36 views
The Bones of an Opinion: Marginalia from the Elmira College Collection
Mark Woodhouse Elmira College
Samuel Clemens's marginal comments in volumes in the Mark Twain Collections of Elmira College have provided food for thought for scholars for many years. Revisiting this material gives unique insight into Clemens's creative mind as well as raising questions about the nature and the future of scholarly evidence.
Mark Woodhouse is the Head of Technical Services, College Archivist, and Mark Twain Archivist at Elmira College where he has served for 25 years.
by Elmira College 52 views
Mark Twain and America's Ownership Society
Lawrence Howe Roosevelt University
Larry Howe will address his analysis of Mark Twain's vexed interest in property, the subject of Professor Howe's current book project. He will focus particularly on the Clemens family's Tennessee land, which influenced Sam Clemens from an early age, and Mark Twain's insightful strategies for protecting his copyrights later in life. Howe's research on this topic refutes the prevailing portrait of Mark Twain as gifted literary man with no head for business. To the contrary, Twain was astutely aware that property was not the sure thing that many an American dream has been built upon, and his life and writing provide insight into an American fascination with property as a measure of social worth.
Larry Howe teaches American literature and film studies at Roosevelt University. He is the author of Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority.
by Elmira College 65 views
Mark Twain and America's "Worst President"
Philip McFarland Author and Biographer
Remarks on the prickly relationship between Samuel L. Clemens and Theodore Roosevelt through two decades when their lives overlapped and modern America was formed.
Philip McFarland is the author of two works of fiction and six of nonfiction, including Hawthorne in Concord and Loves of Harriet Beecher Stowe. His most recent book is Mark Twain and the Colonel: Samuel L. Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Arrival of a New Century (2012).