Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Mark Twain's World

ENGL 016.302

Mark Twain seems to us the most American of writers. He was that, but he was also an international figure. He was almost as well known in Britain, Germany, and and all of Europe as he was here. If Europe knew him, he was as well acquainted with Europe. He lived there for a total of twelve years. He travelled to the Sandwich Islands before they became Hawaii, to Russia, Palestine, Australia, India, Africa. His books will lead us in our exploration of his world. All of us will read some of his novels that introduce us to the Mississippi Valley of his childhood and then some of the non-fiction that reports on the American West and the Mediterranean World of the 1860s. Then each student will settle on a topic for special attention. A student interested in Art History might take Mark Twain's humorous description of J.M.W. Turner's "The Slave Ship" as a point of departure for a study of American reactions to innovative art; one interested in ethnic relations might start with his depictions of black characters; a student with political aspirations might first focus on his scathing denunciations of Theodore Roosevelt. Students will deliver oral reports on their projects and will produce a research paper of at least a dozen pages at the end of the course. Several earlier essays will prepare them for that assignment.   
Note: This course may count toward the English major.

fulfills requirements