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Trouble Beings Lecture Series: “‘A Work of Art?’: Mark Twain’s Influence on the American Use of Humor in Criticism”
2021 Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series
Due to the social restrictions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, CMTS has made the decision not to hold public lectures at the Quarry Farm Barn and Cowles Hall on the EC campus. Similar to last year, we will record the lectures and release them on the designated date. Thanks so much for your patience. Please keep in mind that scores of lectures have been preserved in our “Trouble Begins Archive” dating all the way back to 1985. We encourage you to use the diverse and important resource. Most importantly, we hope to see you all as soon!
“‘A Work of Art?’: Mark Twain’s Influence on the American Use of Humor in Criticism”
Silas Kaine Ezell, Oklahoma Baptist University
My talk will explore the influence of Mark Twain’s famous roasting of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales and its unspoken influence on contemporary film criticism found in comedic video essays on social media. Using parody and satire, Twain vents his rage at Cooper’s fiction and does much to convince his reader of Cooper’s crimes against literature. The essay has had remarkable staying power in American anthologies even though multiple critics have dutifully and successfully revealed Twain’s manipulations and exaggerations of Cooper’s text to arrive at his conclusions. Nevertheless, reception to Cooper’s novels has been forever altered by Twain’s criticisms. Many YouTube channels that provide satirical commentary on popular culture fulfill a similar function for the early 21st century, but the best example of Twain’s combination of humor and satire are the “Plinkett Reviews” on RedLetterMedia. Both Twain and RedLetterMedia serve as clear examples of the use of humor in the critical review of fiction that seeks to make broader arguments about how criticism can inform our sensibilities as consumers in American culture.