Hi Twain friends,
As I've been shaping my undergraduate thesis proposal, I've come to the
realization that while Twain's humor is a highly interesting topic (and one
that will tie in to almost any Twain study), it's not the most viable topic
for me to be tackling - so I'm shifting gears somewhat significantly. I got
so many helpful responses from you all in response to my last post that I'm
going to humbly ask your opinions one more time.
I'm now hoping to focus on the wide variety of narrators that Twain uses in
his short stories, especially those from the latter half of his career. One
of the main criticisms I've been hearing is that I've had too much
biographical focus (which is difficult for me to avoid as I find Twain so
fascinating), so I'm studying what effect this multitude of very different
voices has on readers of the short works, not necessarily what Twain had in
mind when creating them (though I'm sure this will come up too). As you all
probably know, the speakers of the short stories include a former female
slave, a larger-than-life ship's captain, a dog, Satan, and a 12-year-old
Austrian boy among many, many others. I want to look at how they impact the
narrative "distance" between Twain, the first-person "I" that often
introduces the stories (if they are framed), and the character actually
relating the events.
This is obviously a broad topic and will include research into narrative
theory, but my main question for you all is: do you have any suggestions for
books or essays I should consider to help me understand the
creation/role/effects of his speakers? I'd also be happy to hear thoughts on
1)if you agree that a much larger variety of speakers/protagonists exists in
the short stories than in his other works (and not just because there are
more of them) and 2) how you think this impacts the way we read the stories.
I have a pile of books on his short works next to me, but I've found
relatively little that's specifically about the narrators of these stories
(or the function of Twain's narrators in general, except, of course, for
Thanks so much for your time and help!