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Mark Twain

Mark Twain

By the end of his life Mark Twain was a mass-media celebrity, as much as an artist, but for the purposes of this course we will do our best to forget about his famous persona and focus, as much as possible, on the ambition of his books.  Our reading will begin with all three of the so-called “Mysterious Stranger” manuscripts from the last decade of Twain’s life, as well as an odd Socratic dialogue entitled "What Is Man?" that he published anonymously in 1906.  With those experiences as a background, we will revisit a significant portion of Twain's achievement, beginning with The Innocents Abroad, Roughing It, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and concluding with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  We will read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn along the way, of course, but my hope is that you will come to see it with fresh eyes. We might even conclude that it is neither the best nor the most interesting of Twain’s varied and rich literary performances.

Students can expect to write at least two short essays during the course of the semester, with one longer one (12-15 typed pages) as the final class product. Consistent attendance and thoughtful class participation are essentials.


I have ordered the following books for this class.  The publishers and ISBNs are important in every case, since many of these editions reproduce original illustrations or include supplementary material that will play some role in the way that we read them.  By all means order on-line if you wish, but the titles should be available in the Tate Union Bookstore as well.  A small course packet at Bel-Jean Copyprint on Broad Street will be part of your required reading, but it won't be available until the first week of class.

The Innocents Abroad (Penguin) ISBN: 9780142437087

Roughing It (Penguin) ISBN: 9780140390100

The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts (California) ISBN: 9780520246959

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (California) ISBN: 9780520266124

Life on the Mississippi (Random House/Library of America) ISBN: 9781598530575

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (California) ISBN: 9780520228382

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (California) ISBN: 9780520268166