Mark Twain, culture and gender : envisioning America through Europe / J.D. Stahl.

By: Stahl, J. D. (John Daniel)Material type: TextTextPublisher: Athens : University of Georgia Press, c1994Description: xvii, 231 p. : ill. ; 23 cmISBN: 0820315591 (alk. paper); 9780820315591 (alk. paper)Subject(s): Twain, Mark, 1835-1910 -- Knowledge -- Europe | National characteristics, American, in literature | American literature -- European influences | Americans in literature | Sex role in literature | Europe -- In literature | English literature | United StatesDDC classification: 818/.409 LOC classification: PS1342.E85 | S7 1994Other classification: HT 4705
Contents:
The innocents abroad : privilege, gender, and self-definition -- Mark Twain and female power : public and private -- Fathers and sons in The prince and the pauper -- Sexual politics in A Connecticut Yankee -- Escape from sexuality : Mark Twain's Joan of Arc -- Culture, desire, and gender in the "Mysterious stranger" manuscripts.
Summary: Often regarded as the quintessential American author, Mark Twain in fact mined his knowledge and experience of Europe as assiduously as he did his adventures on the Mississippi and in the American West. In this challenging and original study, J. D. Stall looks closely at various Twain works with European settings and traces the manner in which the great writer redefined European notions of class into American concepts of gender, identity, and society. Stahl not only examines such famous writings as The Innocents Abroad, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and the "Mysterious Stranger" manuscripts but also treats a number of neglected works, including 1601, "A Memorable Midnight Experience," and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. In these writings, Stahl shows, Twain utilized the terms and symbols of European society and history to express his deepest concerns involving father-son relationships, the legitimation of parentage, female political and sexual power, the victimization of "good" women, and, ultimately, the desire to bridge or even destroy the barriers between the sexes. The "exoticism" of foreign culture - with its kings and queens, priests, and aristocrats - furnished Twain with some especially potent images of power, authority, and tradition. These images, Stahl argues, were "plastic material in Mark Twain's hands," enabling the writer to explore the uncertainties and ambiguities of gender in America: what it meant to be a man in Victorian America; what Twain thought it meant to be a woman; how men and women did, could, and should relate to each other. Stahl's approach yields a wealth of fresh insights into Twain's work. In discussing The Innocents Abroad, for example, he analyzes the emergence of the "Mark Twain" persona as part of a quest for cultural authority that often took the form of sexual role-playing. He also demonstrates that The Prince and the Pauper, even more strikingly than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, embodies the writer's central myth of orphaned sons searching for surrogate fathers. His reading of A Connecticut Yankee is a tour de force, uncovering the psychological contradictions in Twain's political aspirations toward democratic equality. Stahl's book is an important contribution to literary scholarship, informed by psychology, gender study, cultural theory, and traditional Twain criticism. It confirms Mark Twain's debt to European culture even as it illuminates his re-envisioning of that culture in his own uniquely American way.
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Book University of Texas At Tyler
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PS1342 .E85 S7 1994 (Browse shelf) Available 0000001995711

Includes bibliographical references (p. [207]-217) and index.

Often regarded as the quintessential American author, Mark Twain in fact mined his knowledge and experience of Europe as assiduously as he did his adventures on the Mississippi and in the American West. In this challenging and original study, J. D. Stall looks closely at various Twain works with European settings and traces the manner in which the great writer redefined European notions of class into American concepts of gender, identity, and society. Stahl not only examines such famous writings as The Innocents Abroad, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and the "Mysterious Stranger" manuscripts but also treats a number of neglected works, including 1601, "A Memorable Midnight Experience," and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. In these writings, Stahl shows, Twain utilized the terms and symbols of European society and history to express his deepest concerns involving father-son relationships, the legitimation of parentage, female political and sexual power, the victimization of "good" women, and, ultimately, the desire to bridge or even destroy the barriers between the sexes. The "exoticism" of foreign culture - with its kings and queens, priests, and aristocrats - furnished Twain with some especially potent images of power, authority, and tradition. These images, Stahl argues, were "plastic material in Mark Twain's hands," enabling the writer to explore the uncertainties and ambiguities of gender in America: what it meant to be a man in Victorian America; what Twain thought it meant to be a woman; how men and women did, could, and should relate to each other. Stahl's approach yields a wealth of fresh insights into Twain's work. In discussing The Innocents Abroad, for example, he analyzes the emergence of the "Mark Twain" persona as part of a quest for cultural authority that often took the form of sexual role-playing. He also demonstrates that The Prince and the Pauper, even more strikingly than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, embodies the writer's central myth of orphaned sons searching for surrogate fathers. His reading of A Connecticut Yankee is a tour de force, uncovering the psychological contradictions in Twain's political aspirations toward democratic equality. Stahl's book is an important contribution to literary scholarship, informed by psychology, gender study, cultural theory, and traditional Twain criticism. It confirms Mark Twain's debt to European culture even as it illuminates his re-envisioning of that culture in his own uniquely American way.

The innocents abroad : privilege, gender, and self-definition -- Mark Twain and female power : public and private -- Fathers and sons in The prince and the pauper -- Sexual politics in A Connecticut Yankee -- Escape from sexuality : Mark Twain's Joan of Arc -- Culture, desire, and gender in the "Mysterious stranger" manuscripts.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

CHOICE Review

This volume combines two standard themes of Twain criticism, the encounter with Europe as defining American identity and the quest for sexual maturity, in an analysis of how Clemens explored the "Otherness" of women and the formation of male identity through European culture. The quest for personal identity, including sexuality, has long fascinated critics interested in the dualities in Clemens's persona, beginning with Van Wyck Brooks's The Ordeal of Mark Twain (1920), through Leslie Fiedler's notorious Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), and up to contemporary feminist approaches. This study employs texts in which both cultural and gender issues emerge as important, from Innocents Abroad (1869) through The Mysterious Stranger (written in the late 1890s and published posthumously) and other later writings. The book adds little that is strikingly original, covering the democratic themes of The Prince and the Pauper (1882) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), as well as the idealization of woman in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896); however, in its emphasis on how gender definitions are intertwined with cultural authority and its analysis of the paradoxical boundaries established by Clemens's American male consciousness, this work provides an important perspective on the author's life-long encounters with Europe. Undergraduate and up. H. J. Lindborg; Marian College of Fond Du Lac

Author notes provided by Syndetics

J. D. Stahl (1952-2010) was a professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He was a coeditor of Crosscurrents of Children's Literature: An Anthology of Texts and Criticism .

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