Mark Twain's legacy is an extensive can of writings that includes some of the most widely read, staged, debated, reinterpreted, and filmed works ever. This introductory critical study helps students and general readers appreciate the myriad perspectives of the man, his life, and his contributions to American literature. A fresh biographical account traces Twain's colorful life through his varied careers and adventures, to his rise to national prominence as a writer of short stories, to the creation of masterpieces like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Also examined are the thematic concerns, plot structure, character development, and historical background in the travel narratives, a selection of short stories, and Twain's vels. A lively biographical chapter is followed by a section on Mark Twain's career and contributions to American literature, which situates Twain within the traditions of American humor writings. A selection of Twain's early short stories and sketches are examined, followed by the personal travel narratives. A full chapter on each of the five vels examines their important literary components, and also offers alternative critical perspectives. The final chapter surveys short writings from Twain's later years. A select bibliography cites sources for all of Twain's works, with numerous contemporary reviews, and general criticism of individual and collected works. As a scholar of Twain's writings and of American humor, David Sloane's insightful analysis illuminates how Mark Twain managed to fuse his irreverent humor with his deep seated concerns about humanity.
David E. E. Sloane is Professor of English and Education at the University of New Haven_He is past President of the Mark Twain Circle and of the American Humor Studies Association. He has published extensively on Twain and American humor and has lectured nationally and internationally. His publications include New Directions in American Humor (1998), Mark Twain's Essays Critical Essays (1993), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Ameican Comic Vision (1988), Twain as a Literary Comedian (1979), and American Humor Magazines and Comic Periodicals (Greenwood, 1987).