A Companion to Mark Twain by Peter Messent, Louis J. Budd

By Peter Messent, Louis J. Budd

This broad-ranging better half brings jointly revered American and ecu critics and a few up-and-coming students to supply an outline of Twain, his history, his writings, and his position in American literary history.

  • One of the main broad-ranging volumes to seem on Mark Twain in fresh years.
  • Brings jointly revered Twain critics and a couple of more youthful students within the box to supply an summary of this valuable determine in American literature.
  • Places certain emphasis at the ways that Twain's works stay either proper and demanding for a twenty-first century audience.
  • A concluding essay evaluates the altering panorama of Twain criticism.

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Extra info for A Companion to Mark Twain

Sample text

When the bronze man is subjected to judicial review, however, his peers acquit him on the grounds that his act was the result of a sudden upwelling of powerful feelings. In other words, his reason was momentarily dethroned, and he was prey to temporary insanity. Twain will have none of it. The circumstantial evidence demonstrates that the bronze man took a full hour to prepare himself for the act; the murder was the result of clear-eyed volition. What is remarkable here is how, in a mere squib written for his own amusement, Twain could so easily move between and among these competing frames of reference, and to such diverse comic effect.

His peripatetic readings and global travels broadened his vision of human nature. Still, he insisted in 26 Tom Quirk his notebook that “Human nature cannot be studied in cities except at a disadvantage – a village is the place. There you can know your man inside & out – in a city you but know his crust; & his crust is usually a lie” (Twain 1975: 503). But the village was by no means a fixed, laboratory environment. Twain’s renderings of the village of his youth, Hannibal, Missouri (the St. Petersburg of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and the Dawson’s Landing of Pudd’nhead Wilson) are different enough from one another to signal real changes in attitude.

In a fierce defense of Twain, directed mainly against Brooks, Bernard DeVoto’s Mark Twain’s America (1932) exalted Twain as an artist of the frontier, and his work as an expression of America, by representing the frontier not as a crude, stunting desert but as the rich core of American experience. Much of DeVoto’s book is a tapestry of frontier cultures, importantly including African American storytelling and music and stressing the oral tall tale as Twain’s principal resource and as “sharply and autochthonously American – unique” (DeVoto 1932: 91).

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