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The American Vandal, from The Center for Mark Twain Studies
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The American Vandal, from The Center for Mark Twain Studies

Author: Center for Mark Twain Studies

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An ever-growing collection of conversations and presentations about literature, humor, and history in America, produced by the premier source for programming and funding scholarship on Mark Twain's life and legacy.
13 Episodes
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Following the storming of the Capitol Building on January 6th, there has been a resurgent interest in the era of Reconstruction following the American Civil War. Senators, journalists, and even scholars have perpetuated long-standing myths about Reconstruction. Brook Thomas explains and debunks some of these myths, while also arguing that an informed reckoning with the unfinished business of Reconstruction can help us understand and address the political volatility of the present day. For links to some of the works discussed in this episode, visit MarkTwainStudies.com/MythsOfReconstruction
The staff of the Center for Mark Twain Studies gathers in the library at Quarry Farm to discuss the recently-announced Quarry Farm Fellowships for the coming year, the peculiarities of living and working on the property, and the past and future of CMTS. For more information about applying for Quarry Farm Fellowships, please visit MarkTwainStudies.org.
Did you know that Mark Twain’s father-in-law lobbied for the release of a young woman arrested under the Fugitive Slave Law in 1853? That Twain’s grave lies in a cemetery with numerous conductors and stationmasters on the Underground Railroad? That Twain’s eulogy was given by the first woman ordained in the state of New York? With the help of Oscar-nominated actor, Hal Holbrook, and his grandson, Will Holbrook, Matt Seybold explores the largely forgotten and often surprising political history of the small town where the Center for Mark Twain Studies is located. This episode was originally produced for the official podcast of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists. They are currently soliciting proposals for new episodes. For more information, visit C19Society.org/podcast
This episode focuses on a letter Mark Twain composed for his three-year-old daughter on Christmas 1875. After actor Mark Dawidziak reads the letter, Matt Seybold hosts a book club style discussion with Penne Restad and Jana Tigchelaar, two scholars who have done extensive research on the development of Christmas traditions in Nineteenth-Century America. SPOILER WARNING: The discussion (begins around 11:00) includes frank discussions of Santa and therefore may not be appropriate for young children.
James McBride's retelling of John Brown's epochal raid on Harpers Ferry through the eyes of a young black man won the National Book Award in 2013 and was recently adapted into a Showtime miniseries by Ethan Hawke. Two scholars of antebellum abolitionism discuss Good Lord Bird and, more generally, rising popular interest in the events leading up to the American Civil War.
American Humor Studies scholars Jalylah Burrell, Bambi Haggins, and Maggie Hennefeld join host Matt Seybold to discuss the recent work of stand-up comic Dave Chappelle, especially his free half-hour routine, "8:46," released directly to YouTube the month after the murder of George Floyd.
Concluding the 2020 Trouble Begins Lecture Series, Matt Seybold interposes the early careers of Mark Twain and James Redpath, both of whom, in the years surrounding the American Civil War, denounced police forces in Charleston and San Francisco for violently oppressing people of color. What does it mean to be a witness?
The Gothic has been, since Mark Twain's time, a popular way for artists to reckon with the life and afterlife of American slavery. But only recently has a Gothic tradition emerged which places black protagonists and black perspectives at its center. The recent HBO series, Lovecraft Country, is exemplary of what Sheri-Marie Harrison has dubbed New Black Gothic. In this episode she talks about the show and the artistic movement it is a part of. Show Bibliography: "The New Black Gothic" (LA Review of Books, 2018) https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/new-black-gothic/ "Global Horror: An Introduction" (Post45, 2019) https://post45.org/2019/04/global-horror-an-introduction/ "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: An Ode To An Audiobook" (Post45, 2020) http://post45.org/2020/08/ill-sleep-when-im-dead-an-ode-to-the-audiobook/ "Marlon James & The Metafiction of the New Black Gothic" (Journal of West Indian Literature, 2018) https://www.jwilonline.org/downloads/vol-26-no-2-november-2018/
Coming off the 2020 Quarry Farm Symposium which she organized, Judith Yaross Lee talks with Matt Seybold about her ongoing project, the disciplinary history of American Humor Studies, romantic comedies, Amy Kaplan, and much more. To view the program for the 2020 Quarry Farm Symposium, which includes Dr. Lee's essay on "American Humor & Matters of Empire," as well as watch all the presentations, visit MarkTwainStudies.com/2020-Quarry-Farm-Symposium/
With the backdrop of a large COVID-19 outbreak within its walls, Andrea Morrell talks to Matt Seybold about Elmira Correctional Facility, one of the oldest continuously-operational prisons in the United States. What does it mean to be a "prison town"? How has the prison system changed during the long history of ECF? What does the current outbreak reveal about its future? For more about Andrea Morrell's research, visit AndreaMorrellOrg.wordpress.com or check out the associate post at MarkTwainStudies.org
Susan K. Harris, author of "Mark Twain, The World, & Me: Following the Equator, Then & Now," sits down with Matt Seybold to discuss the project that took her to Australia, India, New Zealand, and South Africa, among other places, and found her examining her own life and career, as well as the author whose footsteps she was following in.
This episode begins with Todd Nathan Thompson's paper for "The Viral Twain" panel at Virtual C19. Dr. Thompson tracks how Twain's jokes based on his visit to Hawaii were reprinted and often misprinted in the 1870s and 1880s, as Twain was increasingly approached as a pundit on annexation. The second half of the episode (24:00) contained Mark Dawidziak's Trouble Begins Lecture about the influence of Twain on Bram Stoker. For more information on joining "The Viral Twain" conversation, including the presentations by Avery Blankenship and Matt Seybold: https://marktwainstudies.com/the-viral-twain-at-virtual-c19-dissent/
Mark Twain's publicist and booking agent, proprietor of the Boston Lyceum Bureau, started his career as a hardscrabble freelance journalist. He discovered he had a knack for star-making long before he met Mark Twain. Matt Seybold tells the largely forgotten tale of James Redpath becoming John Brown's "right hand man" on the cusp of the Civil War. This episode is part of "The Viral Twain" panel at Virtual C19. For more information visit MarkTwainStudies.org or C19society.org.
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