TWAIN-L Archives

Mark Twain Forum


Options: Use Forum View

Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Ines Koessl-Timm <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 28 Mar 1996 22:28:31 +0100
text/plain (75 lines)
At 11:17 26.03.1996 -0500, you wrote:
>Please post more about the differences between German and American studies
>in Twain and the influences of the classical Picaro.  I'd love to hear more
>about it.  - Beth R.

First of all, thanks to all of you who expressed encouragement and support.
I was really overwhelmed and moved.

I don't know if there really is a big difference in scholarship. Of course,
American Studies and American Literary Studies in Germany derive most of
their impulses from the US. It is just an idea, but I have the impression
from all the research I've done lately that 'we' Germans tend to focus on
European literary traditions whereas in the US questions like ethnicity,
'Americaness' (sp.?)etc. seem to be more important (just an opinion!!!!!).
The Picaro may be one example, because secondary literature on Mark Twain in
connection with the  Picaro is mainly from European critics (please correct
me if I'm wrong).

What I found out is, that Twains making use of the picaresque (in Germany:
Schelmenroman) tradition has mainly to do with authority. This, in my
opinion becomes quite clear, in Huck's case. If we assume that _Huck Finn_
is a social satire and Twain is criticizing certain aspects of Southern
society, he needs a protagonist that is accepted by his readers as a
trustworthy, reliable character. By using a 12-or-something year old boy,
who lies, steals, does not go to school etc. Twain does not really offer an
authoritative character (especially in the end of the 19th cent. with
Howells moral realism floating around). However, by referring to the
picaresque tradition and thus making Huck a Picaro, Twain gives the
authority of a literary tradition to the protagonist; Huck can lie, steal,
do whatever, but his criticism remains acceptable for the reader - or even
becomes more important. (This is exactly what Lazarillo de Tormes, the first
Picaro, does. He commits the most terrible crimes one can imagine and at the
same time uncovers injustice, poverty, pride, social inequality,etcetc. By
the way, _Lazarillo_ was written anonymously, because the author feared
capital punishment. - oh, one more thing: _Huck Finn_ was published during
the Gilded Age, right? _Lazarillo_ is from the Siglo de Oro! Coincidence??)
I also think that the ideological framework, which goes together with the
picaresque tradition, works well in the 19th century, especially after the
experience of the CW (the Picaro came into being after the 30-years war;
very traumatic for Europeans!).
Well, just a few thoughts, there is still more to it (the Picaro-part of my
thesis is about 30 pages long ;), but I don't want to make this too long.

The problem I have now is the following: in what way is Hank supposed to be
a Picaro? I've heard it said, but I just can't find any secondary literature
on it. Apart from all the formal characteristics which also apply to Hank
Morgan (like fatherlessness (does this word exist?), being an 'outsider'
from the lower class, mobility (horizontal and vertical), criticism of the
established church,etc), I'm not sure if Hank needs the literary tradition
as authorization. Is his being from the 19th century authority enough?

Any ideas, comments, recommendations? What connotations and meanings does
'picaresque' or 'Picaro' have in the US?

Greetings from Good Old (far away :) Germany,


P.S. Did you know that Twain also spent some time in Munich? However, as far
as I know, the house he had lived in had been torn down many years ago. (I'm
not sure, but it probably was damaged during WW2.)
[log in to unmask]

Ines Koessl-Timm
Wallbergstr. 3
85655 Grosshelfendorf