Mark Twain

The course will give students a
chance to read a representative sampling of writings signed by the most famous
pseudonym in American literature. When Sam Clemens started his career as “Mark
Twain,” he was a subeditor on a regional western newspaper. When he died, he
was a world-famous author, satirist, and comic sage. We will begin with
material from his western days. Next, we will read one of his best-selling
travel books, which includes some of his material on Hawai’i, and then his
three most famous novels. We will finish with his most famous work unpublished
in his lifetime. Along the way, we will also generously sample tales and
speeches and sketches. Students will understand the various phases of Sam
Clemens’s career as Mark Twain and how his writing reshaped the American comic
tradition. In addition, they will develop their skills in analyzing literary
texts as well as skills in argumentative writing.

Methods: There will be some lecture as
necessary, but class time will generally be occupied with discussion and close
readings of important passages. Quizzes and brief writing exercises will often
open class sessions. There will be two formal essays required, one before and
one after the midterm. There will also be ten brief reading responses due
throughout the term, plus a final. 

Reading List:

  • ROUGHING IT (1872).
  • THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (1876).
  • THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1885).
  • A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT (1889).
  • NO. 44, THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER (1982).
  • TALES, SPEECHES, ESSAYS, AND SKETCHES (1994).