Rewriting the Vernacular Mark Twain

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Gerd Hurm

Rewriting the Vernacular Mark Twain. The Aesthetics and Politics of Orality in Samuel Clemens's Fiction

ISBN 978-3-88476-577-7, ISBN 3-88476-577-9, 296 S., kt., € 28,00 (2003)

(Mosaic - Studien und Texte zur amerikanischen Kultur und Geschichte, Bd. 18)

This revionist study of Samuel Clemens's literary aesthetics and politics takes its ultimate justification from a maxim by the author himself. It asks readers, as Clemens did in his preface 'The Innocents Abroad', to read with their 'own eyes' instead of eyes blurred by postmodern and modern mainstream discourses. The plea for independent critical reading and thinking is closely related to the study's claim that the continuing debate about the nature of Samuel Clemens's legacy can only be redirected fruitfully once we readjust the biased discursive frame within which his writings have been discussed. In Twain studies, but also in literary studies at large, many of the new findings about the complexities inherent in oral discourse habe not yet been integrated fully into critical theory. It is time that we give orality the alert ears and eyes it deserves.


"According to this demanding and extremely rewarding analysis, Twain's gift for producing the effect of verbal speech in writing points to the way democratic culture perpetuates and revitalizes itself though criticism, instead of revolution. This may be disappointing news for readers who fell in love with Twain because Huck's voice so powerfully conveys a sense of freedom and nonconformity. But Hurm has given us something more valuable: a way of understanding Mark Twain as a vernacular artist for whom the spoken word is a genuine instrument of social criticism."

Henry B. Wonham, American Literary Realism 38.1 (2005)