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Presented by Susan Gillman, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Comparisons between the US and India have often fueled caste studies today, and Mark Twain’s quasi-satirical, orientalist travel narrative, Following the Equator (1897) offers an unexpected late-nineteenth-century US literary example of comparative caste thinking. Here, on the “hot belt of the equator,” Twain compares the injustices of the caste system in India, which he sees dramatized before him, especially vividly in a Bombay hotel, to his memories of his boyhood in the US south. India, “the mother and home of that wonder of wonders—caste,” thus becomes a conduit to the racial divisions of Mark Twain’s America—to resonate in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Susan Gillman is Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She teaches 19th-century US literature and World Literature and Cultural Studies, and works on national literatures and cultures from a hemispheric perspective. She is the author of Dark Twins: Imposture and Identity in Mark Twain’s America (1989) and Blood Talk: American Race Melodrama and the Culture of the Occult (2003), honored by the MLA. She has worked collaboratively on several essay collections, most recently with co-editor Christopher Castiglia on Neither the Time nor the Place: Today’s Nineteenth Century (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2022). Her new book, American Mediterraneans (U. of Chicago Press, 2022) traces the strange career of the “American Mediterranean,” a scholarly metaphor and folk geographical concept used from 1799 to the present in multiple disciplines, genres and languages, as a point of departure for a transnational and translational study of the Americas.


Wednesday, May 29, 2024
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM


Quarry Farm Barn
131 Crane Road

Elmira, NY 14901

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2024 Trouble Begins Lecture Series: Mark Twain's Caste Studies in Following the Equator


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