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Susan Reed <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 5 Jul 1993 13:28:15 EDT
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I'm here, but I'm only newly subscribed to the list.  I'm not sure what
of things you folks talk about here.  I should check what's in the files, I
suppose before I begin, but really, I'd like to see how you all respond to

        Mark Twain scholarship promotes a vision of Clemens'
        masterpieces that accords with a male definition of
        "American."  Nina Baym calls this paradigm the "drama
        of beset manhood," in which an author struggles to
        establish himself against hordes of horrible women
        writers.  This critical aesthetic originated in the
        post-world war I period as a result of newly professionalized
        male profs of lit seeking to consolidate their cultural
        authority over women.

        Thus "sivilization" in HUCK FINN becomes the agency of
        of women from which Huck rightfully wants to escape,
        and because of which he and Jim become buddies, indirectly
        endorsing the melting pot theory.

        Looking at this from the perspective of nineteenth-century
        intellectual context, though, one could suggest that
        "sivilization" might instead be seen as a phase in
        cultural evolution that comes after "barbarism" and
        "savagery" and has nothing to do with women at all.

Is this confrontational?  I hope not.  The reason it's on my mind is because
I was recently at a conference where the folks vowed on stacks of bibles
never to teach Mark Twain ever, ever again because of the "drama of
beset manhood" reading of the works.  I'm curious what other Mark Twain
folks think.