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Annotated Bibliography of Mark Twain

Budd, Louis J. Mark Twain: social philosopher. University of Missouri Press, 2001.

Budd’s classic text, first published in 1962, explores Twain’s political, social, and philosophical views. It studies them in the context of his writings, letters, and books and probes the author’s personal evolution over time. Budd looks at Twain’s views on American politics, capitalism, women, slavery, the Civil War, and imperialism. His thesis is that Twain’s views were complex and changed over time, but that ultimately he was an old fashioned 19th century liberal who had views that would not easily be accepted in today’s world. “Though critics will concentrate on the formalized texts, recovering the full shape of Twain’s ideas requires going deeper into the gregarious socializing with many self-confident men and a few feminists.”(Budd, 14) This text is reliable because Budd used Twain’s own extensive writings and letters to articulate his philosophical views. Moreover, Budd was a lifelong historian and critic of Twain and edited a two volume collected works from the author. I will use this book to discuss Twain’s perspective on racial issues, anti-imperialism, and American politics and relate them to his novels and short stories. This book is an excellent exploration of Twain’s changing views. However, it is a relatively challenging read and is best suited for readers already familiar with the author’s work and with 19th century history. I would recommend this book to anyone who already has some knowledge of Twain’s works.

Carkeet, David. "The Dialects in Huckleberry Finn." American Literature 51.3 (November 1979): 315-332. Academic Search Complete. TCC Library, Fort Worth, TX. October 4, 2012

David Carkeet studies Twain’s use of dialect and idiomatic speech in the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. In particular, he probes whether Twain in fact followed the announcement at the beginning of the book suggesting that seven dialects and variants of Southern English are spoken in the text. Carkeet’s thesis is that Twain does in fact follow to a great extent his written intention in writing the characters in different forms of English, including Southwestern, Black, and Missouri Pike County accents. For Carkeet, the dialects of the various characters are best compared to Huck’s own speech, which serves as the default standard in the story. “A detailed examination of Huckleberry Finn shows that there are differences in the way people speak that are too systematic to be accidental.”(Carkeet, 316) This source is reliable because Carkeet extensively covers the speech patterns in Huckleberry Finn and cites examples directly from the original text. He actually breaks down examples of how different characters say the same words and phrases differently. I will use this article to discuss how Twain made use of vernacular English and local speech to immerse readers in the world of Missouri and the South that he grew up with. This article is easy to understand and is an excellent complement to reading Twain’s book from a fresh perspective. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about Twain, or get a better understanding of the time.

Gribben, Alan. "The Importance of Mark Twain." American Quarterly 37.1 (January 1985): 30-49. America: History and Life. TCC Library, Ft. Worth, TX. October17, 2012

Alan Gribben’s article discusses the reception of Mark Twain’s writings by other authors and by literary critics. It addresses Twain’s unique position as a humorist and a classic author in the American canon. The author’s thesis is that Twain had a unique comic voice in his writings that were flexible and supple enough to still resonate with modern audiences whereas many other writers from the period now sound dated. “Nevertheless, Mark Twain’s literary stature has suffered, from time to time, because of his predilection for comic forms.”(Gribben,31) This source is authoritative because Gribben is one of America’s preeminent Twain scholars. He has studied and written for decades about the author and has founded a society for the appreciation of Twain’s writings. This article will serve my discussion of Twain’s writing style and unique idiom in my essay. Gribben’s paper is extremely easy to understand and is articulate. I would recommend this article to anyone that wants a better insight of Twain and the time. As well a better perspective of the time, some of Twains perspectives come as more Humor than racism.

Moore, Olin Harris. "Mark Twain and Don Quixote." PMLA 37.2 (June 1922): 324-346. TCC Library, Ft. Worth, TX. October 2, 2012.

Moore suggests in this article that Twain’s writings were deeply influenced by the Spanish author Cervantes. He expresses disagreement with the then prevalent view that Twain was a purely American writer and instead describes how indebted he was to European literature. “ What genuine American humor! What a true picture of American boyhood! Nothing of Europe in Mark Twain! Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are real Americans!”(Moore,324) The thesis is that Twain’s novels were shaped by Cervantes’ classic “Don Quixote” and that in particular, Tom Sawyer was modeled after the protagonist of the Spanish novel. This source is relatively authoritative because it relies upon Twain’s own writings, the record of what books he read and when, as well as Cervantes’ text. However, it may be undermined by more recent scholarship since when it was published in 1922 many of Twain’s writings and correspondence were not available to scholars. I plan to use this article to discuss different interpretations of Twain’s major works, especially “Huckleberry Finn”. The article is useful and easy to read. I would recommend this to anyone that wants gain a better perspective of Twain and his works. By being easy to read this would allow readers to easily understand the work.

Powers, Ron. Mark Twain: A Life. New York Free Press, 2005.

Powers’ book is an extensive investigation of Twain’s life examining not just his major novels and short stories, but his thousands of letters, political essays, and newspaper articles. Moreover, by using what he calls “interpretive portraiture”, Powers probes into the details of Twain’s personal life, relationships, and views on issues concerning woman, race, and American politics. The basic thesis of the book is that Twain is indeed worthy of the fame and popularity he has enjoyed among generations of readers. Powers defends Twain’s writings against his fiercest detractors, many of whom see his novels and stories as roughly and in artfully written or alternatively as racist or misogynistic, and argues that while flawed, they at times rise to greatness. The authority of the source is that Powers is a long-time journalist, author and historian. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism and has written extensively before on Twain and other topics such as the Second World War and Civil War. In addition, the authenticity of the source comes from the primary sources, including books and correspondence that it relies upon. I would use this book to flesh out the details of Twain’s life and situate his writing into the context of events in the late 19th century. The book is an excellent, if voluminous introduction to Twain. It is also well written and easy to understand.

Railton, Stephen. “Mark Twain in his Times.” University of Virginia Library. 2012. October 2012. http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/index2.html.

Stephen Railton at the University of Virginia has compiled a comprehensive online database of original writings and materials related to Twain’s works. The website has unpublished drafts of Twain’s major works, period advertisements, illustrations, sales prospectus, period reviews, and essays addressing topical issues related to the books. There is no thesis per se in this website because it is intended to primarily serve as a collection of primary sources on Twain’s writings. The authority of this site derives most of all from the primary sources it gathers together, many of which are rare and obscure. In addition, Railton is a professional historian and literary expert on Twain and 19th century American literature. I will use this site to look at Twain’s writing process as he wrote Huckleberry Finn and other books. I will also study the marketing techniques Twain used and the critical reception he received at the time, as recorded in reviews on the site. This website is easy to read but somewhat difficult to navigate. It is so extensive that it is not entirely user friendly and probably has its layout updated.

Tucker, Jeffrey A. “Mark Twain’s Radical Liberalism.” Ludvig Von Mises Institute. January 27, 2010. November 2012. <http://mises.org/daily/4060>

Jeffrey Tucker in this online article writes about the much debated nature of Mark Twain’s political views. Twain’s politics seem difficult to classify, Tucker observes, only because the ideology he subscribed to is no longer fashionable. “Part of the difficulty of understanding Mark Twain’s political outlook is due to the terminology and the tendency of politics to corrupt the meaning of everything.”(Tucker, 1) Tucker situates Twain’s anti-slavery, anti-imperialist, anti-government, and pro-capitalist views in terms of 19th century classical liberalism. It is Tucker’s thesis that Twain was essentially a liberal of the old, small government and pro market variety.The authority of this source comes from Tucker’s study of Twain’s writings, which are quoted from and cited in the text. In addition, the author is a major scholar of libertarian politics and economics which are relevant to his interpretation of Twain’s views. I intend to use this online piece to show how Twain could hold points of view that today seem incompatible, such as being anti-war and pro-business. This is a very accessible source and should be of value even for those who disagree with Tucker’s libertarian agenda. I would recommend this article to anyone that has a point of view on Twain.

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