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Allie Morgan <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 1 Oct 2008 16:36:28 -0500
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Hi fellow Twain enthusiasts,

I'm a college senior and have been researching my undergraduate thesis paper
on Twain since mid-July. I am hoping to shed light on what I think is the
most common and inaccurate perception of him: that of being a "mere
humorist," an opinion which I know frustrated Twain. I'm focusing on his
later short stories and attempting to show that, while they undoubtedly
still include humor, the purpose of the humor is much different from earlier
pieces. I believe that the stories emphasize his place as one of America's
great (and generally unappreciated) social critics. I've read many of his
stories, a few critical pieces, and Ron Powers's recent biography, and it
seems like DeVoto's MT in Eruption might be another good source for ideas.

My specific queries for you all are as follows:

1) Does anyone know what authors or works were most influential for Twain's
own writing? I know that Alan Gribben has provided a large list of things
Twain owned and read, but I haven't been able to find out which ones had a
major impact on his writing or opinions (either in a positive or negative
sense). I'm especially wondering if anyone he was reading came close to his
talent for combining humor and biting criticism in fictional stories (other
than Jonathan Swift), or if he was truly among the first to experiment with
that kind of writing.

2) If anyone has other recommendations for sources on the "evolution" of
Twain's humor over time (especially related to his short works), or of
anything else that may be under the radar but seems pertinent, I would truly
appreciate it. Comments/opinions on the subject would also be great to hear.

I've loved reading the postings and I'm looking forward to learning much
more about Twain over the coming months! You all amaze me with your
knowledge. Also, since this is my first time posting to the forum, I
apologize if anything is formatted incorrectly.


- Allie Morgan
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