Thursday, April 19, 2012

Trouble Begins with Twain and Native Americans

"The Trouble  Begins at 5:30," our popular series of free, after-work lectures on Twainian subjects, starts its spring season on Wednesday, May 2, with a lecture on Mark Twain's attitudes toward Native Americans presented by Dr. Kerry Driscoll of St. Joseph College, a Twain scholar who is nationally known for her expertise in the subject.
 
And what she's discovered in developing this expertise is not simple -- in fact, in a museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of a great writer who championed tolerance, a close look at his attitudes toward Native Americans can be downright uncomfortable.
 
"Twain holds iconic status in our culture," Dr. Driscoll has said. "He is often thought of as a racial progressive, but his own fiction, journalistic essays, and personal correspondence reveal the complex, and at times, racist attitudes he had regarding Native Americans."

Her presentation fits squarely into the themes of this spring and summer's "Race, Rage and Redemption" exhibits on the theme of racism, its history in America and the troubling visual images it has spawned. These include "A Sound Heart & a Deformed Conscience," on the evolution of Twain's racial attitudes, and "Hateful Things," an exhibit of racist imagery -- intended to generate conversation on race -- that has prompted strong emotional responses from its viewers. 

The spring and fall "Trouble Begins" lectures take their name from Twain's own posters for his lectures,  that read "The Trouble Begins at Eight." The early-evening timing is set to allow those working to attend, yet not keep them at it too late.

The event is free, with no reservations necessary. It begins with hot hors d'oeuvres and wine and coffee at 5 pm with the Trouble beginning at 5:30.

Driscoll is chair of the English Department at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, and the former executive coordinator of the Mark Twain Circle of America.  She is a frequent lecturer and workshop leader at The Mark Twain House & Museum, and is a featured contributor to many publications on Mark Twain, including Cosmopolitan Twain, published by the University of Missouri Press (2008).  She is presently writing a book titled "Mark Twain Among the Indians."

The house and museum at 351 Farmington Ave. are open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, 9:30  am to 5:30 pm and Sunday, noon to 5:30 pm. (Closed Tuesdays through March.) For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit www.marktwainhouse.org.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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