Mark Twain, Culture and Gender: Envisioning America through Europe (Paperback)J. D. Stahl (author)
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Stahl not only examines such famous writings as The Innocents Abroad, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and the ""Mysterious Stranger"" manuscripts but also treats a number of neglected works, including 1601, ""A Memorable Midnight Experience"", and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. In these writings, Stahl shows, Twain utilized the terms and symbols of European society and history to express his deepest concerns involving father-son relationships, the legitimation of parentage, female political and sexual power, the victimization of ""good"" women, and, ultimately, the desire to bridge or even destroy the barriers between the sexes. The ""exoticism"" of foreign culture-with its kings and queens, priests, and aristocrats-furnished Twain with some especially potent images of power, authority, and tradition. These images, Stahl argues, were ""plastic material in Mark Twain's hands"", enabling the writer to explore the uncertainties and ambiguities of gender in America: what it meant to be a man in Victorian America; what Twain thought it meant to be a woman; how men and women did, could, and should relate to each other.
Stahl's approach yields a wealth of fresh insights into Twain's work. In discussing The Innocents Abroad, for example, he analyzes the emergence of the ""Mark Twain"" persona as part of a quest for cultural authority that often took the form of sexual role-playing. He also demonstrates that The Prince and the Pauper, even more strikingly than Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, embodies the writer's central myth of orphaned sons searching for surrogate fathers. His reading of A Connecticut Yankee is a tour de force, uncovering the psychological contradictions in Twain's political aspirations toward democratic equality.
Stahl's book is an important contribution to literary scholarship, informed by psychology, gender study, cultural theory, and traditional Twain criticism. It confirms Mark Twain's debt to European culture even as it illuminates his re-envisioning of that culture in his own uniquely American way.
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Number of pages: 256
Weight: 322 g
Dimensions: 216 x 140 x 14 mm
Stahl is certainly at his strongest in the analyses of character and gender constellations and in the corollaries about Twain's making of an American male identity.--"American Studies"
Unquestionably, the nature of Twain scholarship is changing and those working within the field will benefit from Stahl's expansion of the creative and cultural circles through which Twain traveled. By examining Twain through a critical lens ground and polished by questions of gender and focused on Twain's European canon, Stahl reveals Twain's, to borrow Stahl's phrase, 'gendering imagination at work, ' and what fascinating work it remains.--"Southern Quarterly"
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