The Mark Twain Circle of America

Studies in American Humor, Special Issue: Mark Twain, Satire, and the “Assault of Laughter”

The editorial team of Studies in American Humor is happy to announce publication of a special issue:   Mark Twain, Satire, and “The Assault of Laughter.”

If you attended the Elmira conference in 2017, you may have heard earlier versions of these critical considerations.  We’re delighted to have the opportunity to present this work in one volume.

Before listing the tantalizing titles of the essays in the Table of Contents (below), we also want to call attention to a new feature that will begin in the next issue (5.1 Spring 2019) called “On Second Thought.”  This is our attempt to foster a dialogue between our contributors and our equally insightful readers, and we’ll be printing responses to any and all of the work contained in the special issue from readers like you.  We expect this to get traction with the Mark Twain special issue and be a regular feature going forward.  We know that you’re a group with a lot to say, so let’s hear it.


  1. Comic Assaults and Somersaults: An Introduction (pp. 137-143)

Judith Yaross Lee

  1. WTF Is Laughter to Mark Twain? (pp. 144-151)

Jennifer A. Hughes

  1. When the Candle Goes Out: The Complexity of Simple Jokes and the Limits of Satire (pp. 152-159)

Jeffrey Melton

  1. “Scribbling to excite the laughter of God’s creatures”: Some Thoughts on “Mere” Humor, Entertainment, and Pleasure (pp. 160-170)

Tracy Wuster

  1. Mark Twain’s “Assault of Laughter” and the Limits of Political Humor (pp. 171-182)

Holger Kersten

  1. Is Satire Compatible with Free Speech? (pp. 183-191)

Gregg Camfield

  1. The Pernicious Use of “Humorist” to Describe Mark Twain (and Other Comic Writers) (pp. 192-204)

James E. Caron

  1. Comic Outbreaks and Scholastic Discontents: a Response (pp. 205-215)

Bruce Michelson


–Larry Howe (editor), Jim Caron (senior assoc. editor), David Gillota (associate editor), Sabrina Fuchs Abrams (book review editor)


Mark Twain Fairy Tale to Be Made Into a Movie

The Mark Twain fairy tale, discovered at the Mark Twain Papers by John Bird then published as a book by Philip and Erin Stead, is going to be made into a movie by Fox Family. Here is a link to the article:

Fall “Trouble Begins” Lectures in Elmira Announced

The fall series of “Trouble Begins” Lectures in Elmira, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, has been announced. Come if you can!

Deadline for Special Issue of The Mark Twain Annual

The deadline for submitting proposals for the special issue on Mark Twain and the Natural World of The Mark Twain Annual is tomorrow, September 1. See the call for proposals under the “Events and Calls for Papers” tab.

See Two New Calls For Papers

Under the “Calls For Papers” tab, see two new calls: for the 2019 Clemens Conference and for an ALA Symposium on places in literature.

Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum Completes Year 13 of Summer Workshop for Teachers

For the past 13 summers, high school, middle school, and elementary school teachers have made their way to Hannibal, Missouri, to attend the Mark Twain Teachers’ Workshop held at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. Created in 2006 and run by museum director, Henry Sweets, the week-long workshop has hosted a total of 478 teachers, mostly from Missouri, but some from as far away as California, Maine, Florida, and even Japan.

Teachers spend a week listening to talks on specific works of Twain, discussing those works in group sessions, and working on lessons plans to apply when they return to their classrooms. Many of these lesson plans from past workshops are available on the museum’s website: Teachers have full access to the museum exhibits daily. But perhaps the highlight of the workshop, as the teachers attest, is the place. Participants visit the Mark Twain Cave; Cardiff Hill; Mark Twain’s birthplace in Florida, MO; various cemeteries in Hannibal; and of course, the Mississippi River. They enjoy a dinner cruise on the river as well. As one participant this summer put it: “Having visited, walked, touched, and breathed the areas Twain wrote of—this will enrich my teaching.”

The topics for the workshop have varied over the years: Twain’s short stories; The Prince and the Pauper paired with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; Following the Equator; and Roughing It. But the pairing of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is featured every other year.

The workshop is led by Henry Sweets, who provides a wealth of biographical and historical information about young Sam Clemens, Mark Twain the writer, and Hannibal and its culture and citizens. In addition, a Twain scholar offers commentary and lectures about the specific works under discussion and serves as a resource for teachers as well. Past scholars include Cindy Lovell, Bruce Michelson, Susan Harris, Michael O’Conner, Janice McIntyre-Strasburg, Jocelyn Chadwick, Tom Quirk, Larry Howe, and this year Ben Click. Finally, an education specialist engages teachers in various pedagogical activities that could be used in the classroom and works teachers individually and in groups as they develop their lesson plans. Dr. Julie Albee, professor of education at Hannibal-LaGrange University, has served in this capacity for the past seven years. Participants in the workshop receive graduate credit for completing assigned work and for their participation in workshop. The number of participants in the workshop ranges from 15-20.

The workshop, held in July, is funded by the Missouri Humanities Council and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. It is a wonderful experience, as these photos reflect.

Group 1Group2Group3CaveCave2


Tom Diggs from California takes the wheel

Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies 2018 Summer Institute

On July 10th and 11th, forty teachers, librarians, media specialists, and school administrators participated in the annual Center for Mark Twain Studies Summer Teachers Institute. This year’s workshop, led by Ann Ryan, Kerry Driscoll, and Matthew Seybold, focused on the theme “Mark Twain in Color,” exploring the writer’s complicated reading (and writing) of race in 19th century America. As the institute’s brochure explains, “Although we like to think of Mark Twain, ‘the man in white,’ as absolutely progressive when it comes to issues of race and ethnicity, his journey toward enlightenment was characterized by many bumps in the road. Some of his attitudes were remarkably forward-thinking; others were more backward and reactionary—all of which makes Mark Twain less an icon of goodness and more an utterly human being. Our hope is that attendees will find in Twain’s lifelong reflections on race, as well as his struggles with prejudice, stories to share with their students who also struggle with our complicated shared history.”

Day 1 of the institute, held on the Elmira College campus, centered on the writer’s portraits—in both his fictional and non-fictional work—of African Americans and Native Americans, as well as his many reflections on his own white identity. Day 2, held on the breezy porch at Quarry Farm, addressed his views of the Chinese. The institute concluded with a discussion of Twain’s vision of a diverse, multiracial brotherhood of man in the late story, “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven.”


Ann Ryan Teaching


Kerry Driscoll Teaching


Kerry Driscoll and teachers on the porch at Quarry Farm


Ann Ryan and teachers on the porch at Quarry Farm

lunch at the farm

Lunch time

Steve's Cat No-Taila (who I've renamed Sociable Jimmy)

Steve’s cat No-Taila (Kerry renamed him Sociable Jimmy)

teachers with QC cat

Teachers with Sociable Jimmy (No-Taila)