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The spring 2023 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS), continues at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 17 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. Lectures will be held each Wednesday through the end of May. The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website.
Jessica Jordan, a Ph.D. candidate in English at Stanford University, will lead the second lecture, “Between Mark Twain and Bella Z. Spencer: Satire and Sentiment on the Subscription Book Market.”
Jordan will discuss her research into the literary subscription model, which Mark Twain is considered a kind of wunderkind, selling more than eighty-thousand copies of 1869’s The Innocents Abroad in just a year and a half. He was a favorite of the literary establishment, who considered him an exception to the low-quality offerings they believed typified the subscription business. However, Jordan feels the emphasis on a single author has resulted in a neglect of figures besides Twain who operated within the subscription model, including Bella Zilpha Spencer, whose 1866 novel Tried and True, or Love and Loyalty: A Story of the Great Rebellion pre-dates the first novel sold by subscription by seven years.
In putting Spencer’s work, and her novel’s life on the subscription market, in conversation with Twain’s, we expand our understanding of fiction’s relationship to this common and diverse system of distribution.
Go to Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series for recordings of previously held lectures.
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 Barn at Quarry Farm during the fall and spring of each year. All lectures are free and open to the public.