Fall 'Trouble Begins' Lecture Series Set

August 31 2017
Category: Twain

Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus

The fall portion of the 2017-2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies features four lectures, with the first event set for Wednesday, October 4 in Cowles Hall at Elmira College.  All four lectures begin at 7:00 p.m., and are free and open to the public.

The first lecture, “‘That heart-breaking bitch’: Aileen Mavourneen & the Transatlantic Anti-Vivisection Movement” will be presented by Emily E. VanDette, associate professor of English with the State University of New York at Fredonia. The title of this talk comes from a letter in which William Dean Howells congratulates Clemens on his 1903 anti-vivisection novella, A Dog’s Tale.  This paper will situate Twain’s stance in the context of the vivisection controversy, including some leading voices who directly networked with the famous author to solicit his support for the cause, and it will connect Twain’s prescient portrayal of animal voice and identity to modern-day animal rights activism and post-humanist philosophy.

On Wednesday, October 11, the Series continues at Quarry Farm with “Mark Twain and the Inventor Fiction Boom: Technology Meets American Conceit, 1876-1910” presented by Nathaniel Williams, lecturer at the University of California, Davis. In Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894), Mark Twain sends his most famous characters—Tom, Huck, and Jim—on an airship voyage across the Atlantic into Africa. By the time Twain wrote that novel, nearly 100 similar stories about young Americans in imaginary aircraft and other vehicles had appeared in magazines and serials. This presentation covers some of those works along with Twain’s unique contributions to the dime novelist genre.

The Series continues at Quarry Farm on Wednesday, October 18 with “Mark Twain and the Narrative Magic of Medieval Literary Spunk-Water Stumps” presented by Liam Purdon, professor of English at Doane University.  While much instructive scholarship has been published treating Mark Twain’s interest in and use of Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur as predecessor text for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, his interest in and use of works from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as potential predecessor texts for The Prince and the Pauper and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc constitute a dimension of his medievalism that invites further inquiry.

The fall portion of the Series wraps up on Wednesday, November 1 in Cowles Hall at Elmira College with a lecture and book signing by Hal K. Bush, author of “The Hemingway Files.”  Bush, professor of English at Saint Louis University, explores the theme of obsession in his presentation, “Collecting Mark Twain: Obsessions over the Great Authors and The Hemingway Files.” Obsession is frequently an overlooked focus of major literary works. In novels like Moby-DickThe Picture of Dorian GrayPossessionThe Aspern PapersThe Great Gatsby, and many others, characters are often driven to extremes by their various obsessions over various objects or concerns. But sometimes obsession infiltrates the author’s audience as well.

Visit the Center for Mark Twain Studies website to learn more.