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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Taylor Roberts <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 30 Jun 1995 11:32:42 EDT
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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The Mark Twain Forum needs a competent reviewer for the following book:

     J.D. Stahl.  _Mark Twain, Culture and Gender: Envisioning America
     Through Europe_.  Athens and London: University of Georgia Press,
     1994.  Pp. xvii + 231.  Illustrations, index.  $35.00.  Cloth,
     5-3/4" x 8-3/4".  ISBN 0-8203-1559-1.

This book is described by the jacket as follows:

     Often regarded as the quintessential American author, Mark Twain in
     fact mined his knowledge and experience of Europe as assiduously as
     he did his adventures on the Mississippi and in the American West.
     In this challenging and original study, J.D. Stahl looks closely at
     various Twain works with European settings and traces the manner in
     which the great writer redefined European notions of class into
     American concepts of gender, identity, and society.

     Stahl not only examines such famous writings as _The Innocents
     Aborad_, _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 Aborad_, 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 _The 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

     Stahl's book is an important contribution to literary scholarship,
     informed by psychology, gender study, cultural theory, and
     traditional Twain criticism.  In confirms Mark Twain's debt to
     European culture even as it illuminates his re-envisioning of that
     culture in his own uniquely American way.

     J.D. Stahl is an associate professor of English at Virginia
     Polytechnic Institute and State University.

As always, the book review should be of publishable quality, and the
deadline for sending me your review would be two months after your
receipt of the book.

Please send me a message with your institutional snail-mail address and
telephone number if you're interested in reviewing this book.  Please be
careful not to reply to this message (your reply will be sent to
TWAIN-L), but rather compose a separate message directly to me.  If I
don't already know you, it would be helpful for you to explain who you
are, and in what respect you're qualified to write this review.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Taylor Roberts
Coordinator, Mark Twain Forum