Course Requirements


ATTENDANCE & PARTICIPATION:   The receipe for a good seminar is like Huck Finn's advice for a good meal. He says the food at the Widow's is all right, but would be better if each different part of the meal wasn't cooked by itself. According to him, when you cook all the food together "in a barrel of odds and ends, . . . things get mixed up and the juice gets swapped around and things go better." In a good seminar, it's our ideas that get swapped around. So the first requirement is making sure we always show up, and have come prepared to talk with each other about the day's reading. That's why I'll take attendance all semester. Two unexcused absences are allowed. Beyond that your final grade will be affected. While there won't be a separate grade for participation, I hope to hear everyone's voice often throughout the term, and everyone will give one oral report:

REPORTING ON TWAIN IN THE MEDIA:   MT was perhaps the first citizen of "Celebrity America." The media of his times weren't the same as ours; his best jokes "went viral" in the pages of newspapers. But the way he and that media exploited each other is an important part of the larger story we're studying. That's why I'm asking all of you to spend some time exploring the way "Mark Twain" was celebrated and condemned, defined and maybe even partially created in America's print media between 1865 and 1910. Using one or more online resources like "America's Historical Newspapers," "Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers," "The Making of America" and "Mark Twain Quotations, Newspaper Collections & Related Resources," you'll look through several years' worth of articles, notices, images and advertisements featuring MT. On the specified 21st century date, you'll report to the rest of us on your findings. You should first give us an overview of what the media of his times was saying about MT, and then spend some minutes talking in detail about 2-3 articles that seem to you to be the most interesting, or to epitomize the way he was being depicted. If you want to bring copies of those articles to hand out, that would be great, or you can scan and email them to the class as .pdf files. (Reports should be no longer than 10 minutes.)


WRITTEN WORK:   You'll write two different kinds of assignments.

  First, a 2-page close reading of a passage from one of Mark Twain's texts, due in class WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16 (the first day back after "Reading Days"). This assignment has two main purposes: to give you and me a chance to discuss your writing before you write the long essay, and to give you practice in looking closely at a text. We'll talk more about this assignment later.

  Second, and most important, you'll do a final essay or project, due FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6, BY 5 p.m., on whatever aspect of Twain's work and its legacy that interests you most. We'll talk more about this as the semester goes on too. If you choose to write a final essay, it should be 12-15 pages long. Instead of an essay, you can also create a web-based project. If you're interested in this alternative, let me know soon, and we can work together to define a good project and to make sure you have or get the training you'll need in HTML markup language, &c. I'd love to be able to add more good student projects to the MT website, so I'll be happy to help anyone interested in trying this option. I'm always happy to read good essays too, though, so you should decide which final project is most intellectually attractive to you.

  All your work must be submitted on time.