Twain, Mark. (1835 - 1910).
L i f e
- born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Hannibal, a frontier town by Mississippi = the cross-section of all the directions and of the Western wilderness x Eastern civilisation, Southern slavery x Northern abolitionism
- largely self-educated, apprenticed in a printing shop, worked from 12 to support family after his father’s death
- intended to go to Amazon to find adventure and wealth x but: instead apprenticed to a pilot of a Mississippi riverboat > adopted the penname of Mark Twain = ‘safe water’
W o r k
- a humorist, realist, social realist, and the representative man of American popular culture: more successful than any of the authors before him
- remained a rough Westerner with no university education (unlike earlier authors): established a new pattern of writing including the frontier humour and the storytelling conventions of his journalistic experiences
- his narrative technique: a written equivalent of ‘deadpan’ lecturing, convincing the audience he simply reports what others said and did
< journalism: his critical sense of violence, corruption, and the decay of the American dream
< local colour: sentimentalism, nostalgia for the Age of Innocence (= the pre-Gold Rush x the Gilded Age), and criticism of the damaging influences of commercialism and industrialism
< folklore: the oral tradition, local customs, Tall-Tale
“The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (1865):
- a hoax, the first piece to bring him popularity
The Innocents Abroad (1869):
- a travel book, originally a series of letters for the newspaper from his excursion to Europe
- a satire against the pretentious, decadent, and undemocratic Old World
The Gilded Age (1873):
- in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner
Roughing It (1877):
- the pattern of Innocents applied to the Wild West
- an account of his and his brother’s adventures in the Nevada territory and the schemes he devised to get rich quick
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876):
- a myth of the endless summer of childhood pleasures mixed with terror
Old Times on the Mississippi (1875) >> Life on the Mississippi (1883):
- returns chronologically backward and psychically inward to the Hannibal of his boyhood
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884):
- a more serious sequal to Tom and his realistic, satiric, yet lyrical masterpiece
- an attempt of a more complex explanation, deconstructs some myths x but: reconstructs others
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889):
- his anarchism end up in a rejection of old and new values alike
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894):
- disastrous effects of slavery on the victimiser and victim alike
- his satire turns to scorn and contempt for the ‘damned human race’
What Is Man? (1899):
- his ‘Bible’ expressing his indignation at orthodox Christianity, racism, imperialism, etc.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorSamuel Langhorne Clemens. Aka Mark Twain. (1835 - 1910). American.
WorkNovelist. Short story writer. Journalist. Author of Huckleberry Finn (1884).
GenresComedy. Satire. Grotesque.
Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.
Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
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Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.
McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.
Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.
Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.
"An Encounter with an Interviewer" (1874)
"Speech on the Weather" (1876)
"Speech on the Babies" (1879)
"On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (1882)
"Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR".
"Notice" to Huckleberry Finn (1884).