Spring 2007

HUMS 636
The Invention of Mark Twain: Reading the Major Works


01/22/2007 - 05/05/2007
Thursday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Downey 100

This course will explore the ways in which Samuel Clemens invented and constructed "Mark Twain," his authorial persona, as both a literary master and a popular celebrity. We will examine his techniques from various perspectives, beginning with his innovative revision of existing genres, as when he revised older travel narratives to create Innocents Abroad and Roughing It; used Arthurian romance to fashion an important element of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court; and used a wholesale parody of American popular culture to fashion Huck Finn. Secondly, we will look at the complex character relations "Twain" establishes between and within his novels (asking, for instance, why and to what effect a minor character in Tom Sawyer becomes the protagonist in Huck Finn). Thirdly, we will pay particular attention to "Twain's" style, including his uses of dialect, social types, and unusual first-person narrators. Finally, we will consider the uneasy dialectic between realism and romance that shapes both individual books and the larger pattern of "Twain's" career. In approaching "Mark Twain," we will also discuss his skillful use of humor to bring ideological issues before the American public, such as the lasting effects of slavery and the dangers of American exceptionalism as the United States became a global imperial power.

Readings include Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad or the Pilgrims Progress (Signet); Roughing It (Mark Twain Library, U Cal); The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (U Cal); The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (U Cal); A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (U Cal); Pudd N'Head Wilson and Other Tales (Oxford); The Devil's Race Track (U Cal); and Stephen Railton, Mark Twain in His Times.

Students will write several short essays and a longer critical paper. Participation in a field trip to the Mark Twain house is optional.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

Charles Baraw (BA University of Vermont; MA Middlebury College; PHD Yale University) is a visiting assistant professor of English. His current book project is Hawthorne and the Travelling Eye: Tourism and Nineteenth-century American Literary Culture, which examines the role of aesthetics in travel, apprehension, narrative structure, and the development of professional authorship in the United States. Click here for more information about Charles Baraw.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Mark Twain, THE INNOCENTS ABROAD (Penguin Classics), Paperback

Mark Twain, ROUGHING IT (University of California Press), Paperback

Mark Twain, THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (University of California Press), Paperback

Mark Twain, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (Norton Critical Edtion), Paperback

Mark Twain, A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT (Norton Critical Edition), Paperback

Mark Twain, PUDDN'HEAD WILSON AND THOSE EXTRAORDINARY TWINS (Norton Critical Editions), Paperback



Mark Twain, THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF MARK TWAIN (Modern Library Classics), Paperback

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