Center for Mark Twain Studies Announces New Lecture Series

June 13 2016
Category: Twain

The Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College is pleased to announce The Park Church Summer Lecture Series This new lecture series features two lectures that will take place in August at the historic and cultural landmark, The Park Church, 208 W. Gray Street, Elmira.

The first lecture, ‘Never Be In A Hurry To Believe’: Did Sermons Joseph Twichell Preached at The Park Church Save Huck Finn’s Soul? will be presented by Dwayne Eutsey, Independent Scholar, on Wednesday, August 3.  Eutsey will examine how two eulogy sermons the Rev. Joseph Twichell preached at Park Church on the passing of his mentor (and controversial theologian) Horace Bushnell may have contributed to the deep and complicated religious undercurrents coursing through the heart of Twain’s classic novel. The Rev. Twichell, Twain’s close friend and pastor in Hartford, visited Elmira several times at key moments in Twain’s personal life. He co-officiated Twain’s marriage to Olivia Langdon with Park Church’s pastor, Thomas Beecher. He was there on sadder occasions as well, officiating years later the funerals of Twain’s beloved Olivia and daughter Susy. When the Congregationalist minister preached two consecutive Sundays at Park Church in April 1876, just as Twain was formulatingAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, did Twichell’s open-minded Christianity play an important role in developing Twain’s literary masterpiece as well? The two friends unquestionably stoked the flame of literary inspiration in each other. As an 1874 article observed, “Mr. Twichell sometimes gains ideas from his companion which he embodies in his sermons and Mark Twain obtains information from his pastor which he works up into comical and humorous stories.”

On Wednesday, August 10, the series continues with “Everybody Drinks Water: Bridging The Generation Divide in Mark Twain” presented by A.B. Effgen, Boston University. This presentation explores generational preconceptions picturing Mark Twain in stage performance, photography, illustration, and several forms of composition (fiction, memoir, and criticism).  In a college class entitled “The Invention of Mark Twain,” freshman students at Boston University debated the origin and interpretation of an American icon. The life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens began in the age of steam, and finished at the dawn of flight. In his time he watched the railroad cross the United States, the automobile replace the horse, and the photograph become a motion picture. With similar progress modern Americans have witnessed many facets of their life “go digital”: interconnected to a streaming media that seemed like science fiction just thirty years ago. The Millennial Generation has grown up knowing nothing else but life in a search engine.

The Park Church Lecture Series is free and open to the public.  Doors open at 7:00 p.m. for guided tours of The Park Church, with lectures beginning at 7:30 p.m. for both lectures. 

About The Park Church

Founded in 1846 by a group of abolitionists, The Park Church has been a strong presence in Elmira’s history and some members of its congregation were close friends and family members to Mark Twain.  Known for its striking architectural features, The Park Church contained Elmira’s first public library and has a long history of charitable service to the Elmira community.  Currently, it is an “Open and Affirming Congregation,” welcoming all people to worship and participate in its communal life, regardless of ethnic origin, race, class, age, ability, gender, or sexual orientation. 


About The Trouble Begins at Eight Lecture Series

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight. The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985.

The lectures are now held annually in the fall and spring of each year. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the Barn at Quarry Farm in Elmira, NY. Each lecture is digitally recorded after the event and made available in MP3 format.