No American writer has attracted more attention than Mark Twain. Almost every year sees the publication of a half dozen new books and dozens of articles about him, so one may fairly ask what remains to be said about Mark Twain that has not been said before. The answer, as this fine collection of vigorous essays demonstrates, is a great deal.
Descriptions of Mark Twain as the quintessential American writer are more than hyperbole. No writer is more closely identified with America’s national psyche than he is. So central to the American national consciousness is he that explorations of his life and writings are also explorations of American culture and values. So long as something new can be said about America, there will be something new to say about Mark Twain—and vice versa. THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO MARK TWAIN proves this emphatically in eleven original essays that may be read as a casebook in American studies.
In “Mark Twain as an American Icon,” Louis J. Budd opens the volume with a fascinating survey of the huge imprint that Mark Twain has left on modern education, politics, business, and popular culture. Other contributions explore such themes as travel writing, humor, race, and religion, as well as such issues as African American attitudes toward Mark Twain and the place of HUCKLEBERRY FINN in American literature. A typical essay is “Mark Twain and Women,” in which Shelley Fisher Fishkin says as much about changing American ideas about feminism and gender relationships as she does about Mark Twain’s complex relationships with women—both real and fictional.
As a collection of fresh explorations of the issues of most urgent concern to modern Mark Twain scholars, THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO MARK TWAIN is a statement on the state of Mark Twain studies in 1995.