Mark Twain

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1999-08-01
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr

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In Tom Sawyerand Huckleberry Finn,Mark Twain presented for the first time the vernacular of the Mississippi River region, explored the myths and fables of the nation's past, and looked to the choices facing a rapidly changing society. Moving from a discussion of the novels' early receptions, this Columbia Critical Guideexplores nineteenth- and twentieth-century criticism by William Dean Howells, T. S. Eliot, Leslie Fiedler, Ralph Ellison, Norman Mailer, and Toni Morrison. In its final section, the book provides students with important material on the contemporary debates about race and gender in these novels so that new perspectives on Twain's place in American literature may be fully understood.

Table of Contents

Introduction 5(5)
Mark Twain's Life and Work
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876): The Contemporary Reviews
The immediate reception of Tom Sawyer in England and America and the question of how it relates to Twain's well established fame as a comic writer. William Dean Howells' association of its realism with `charm'. Doubts about whether a book containing Injun Joe is suitable for children to read.
Tom Sawyer: Twentieth Century Criticism
Twain's changes of direction as he wrote the novel and whether or not he ever achieved a coherent structure and a consistent central character. The novel's universal appeal, but also its appeal to a particular kind of American nostalgia. Tom as a portrait of the artist, and the relation of fantasy and realism in Twain. Whether the novel was censored by Twain's wife. The interdependence of Tom as hero and Injun Joe as villain. Injun Joe and racism in Twain. Twain and `sappy women'.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884-85): Dates of Composition and Contemporary Reviews
When the various chapters were written between the starting date, July 1876, and the completion slightly more than seven years later. The crucial abandoning of the novel at the end of chapter 16. The reception of the novel in America and Twain's own responsibility for having relatively few review copies sent out. The Concord Library ban and other incidents ensuring controversial publicity for the novel. Recognition of Twain as `a literary artist of very high order', but immediate doubts about the novel's ending.
Huckleberry Finn: The Response of Creative Writers
T.S. Eliot's recognition of the novel as a `masterpiece', Auden's distinguishing it from Oliver Twist and his conclusion that it is `emotionally very sad'. Hemingway's acclamation of the novel as the source of `all modern American literature', and Faulkner's and Mailer's similar claim. Ellison's identification of Jim as both `a symbol of humanity' and `a white man's inadequate portrait of a slave'. Morrison's challenging reading of the ending and conclusion that `neither Huck nor Mark Twain can tolerate, in imaginative terms, Jim freed'.
Huckleberry Finn: Twentieth Century Critical Response
White males and their love for the man of another race, be it Twain's Jim, Cooper's Chingachgook or Melville's Queequeg. The river as `strong brown god'. Whether the ending can be defended on formal terms, or whether it irrecoverably disappoints our expectations. Huck's faking of his death and his existence as `the man without identity'. The difference between him and Tom. The novel not as a journey narrative but a continuing movement between the shore as slavery and the river as freedom. Huck as a mask for a variety of authorial positions. Twain's emerging nihilism. His relation to Southwestern humour. Is Huck derived from black sources?
Critical works cited 144(2)
Notes 146

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