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Huck Finn Lecture 23 September 2009


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Huck Finn Lecture 23 September 2009

  1. 1. Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn The author as celebrity and the role of racial performance
  2. 2. Mark Twain Background <ul><li>1836, Born Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri. Family later moved to river town of Hannibal. </li></ul><ul><li>First jobs in printing offices in St Louis. </li></ul><ul><li>1857. Apprenticed as river boat pilot. </li></ul><ul><li>Spent 2 weeks in Confederate military unit </li></ul><ul><li>First professional writing position as journalist for Virginian newspaper. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Mark Twain Background <ul><li>Began using pseudonym Mark Twain (meaning two fathoms) when writing political reports as journalist. </li></ul><ul><li>By 1860s, Twain becoming famous (reaches celebrity status) as writer of humorous stories such as “Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog” as well as for travel literature. </li></ul><ul><li>Lectured in US as well as abroad </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Travel Writing </li></ul><ul><li>The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrim’s Progress (1869). Travel book about the “Holy Land”. Writer defines himself as inexperienced, innocent naif abroad. Naif: “the tenderfoot whose innocence becomes the occasion for all kinds of misadventures”. </li></ul><ul><li>Roughing It (1872). An account of adventures between 1861 and 1866 in Nevada, California and Hawaii. Twain again casts himself as inexperienced naif in strange land. Motif of the outsider (similarities to Huckleberry Finn as well as character of David Wilson in Pudd’nHead Wilson ) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Twain’s major works <ul><li>Life on the Mississippi (1883). Twain casts himself as “the cub”. The hopeless naif, the innocent naif whose inevitable incompetence provides opportunities for comedy. </li></ul><ul><li>The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Nostalgic representation of antebellum past. Tom as adventurer, miscreant, truant. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Twain’s major works <ul><li>The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Realist novel about Huck Finn – the illiterate, poor white son of town drunk. Novel focuses on his relationship with Jim, a runaway slave. Huck and Jim as inter-racial double. Ending of novel has Huck “lighting out for the territory” with Jim. Compare with ending of Puddn’Head Wilson . Slave sold “Down the river” as last words of Pudd’nHead Wilson . </li></ul>
  7. 7. Twain’s celebrity image—frontier myth. <ul><li>Iconic image of Twain as adventurer. Associated with river boat and frontier myth. This image generated through Twain’s novels, travel book and his celebrity image. </li></ul>
  8. 11. References <ul><li>Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel (1960) </li></ul><ul><li>Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1993) </li></ul>