"Littery Man": Mark Twain and Modern Authorship by Richard S. Lowry

By Richard S. Lowry

As Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens straddled the conflicts among tradition and trade that characterised the period he named the Gilded Age. In "Littery Man", Richard Lowry examines how Twain used those conflicts in his significant texts to style an "autobiography of authorship," a story of his personal claims to literary authority at that second while the American Writer emerged as a career. Drawing on wide selection of cultural genres--popular boys' fiction, childbearing manuals, commute narratives, autobiography, and feedback and fiction of the period--Lowry reconstructs how Twain participated in remaking the "literary" right into a strong social class of illustration. He exhibits how, as one in every of our cultures first smooth celebrities, Samuel Clemens reworked his lifestyles into the crafty functionality we've come to grasp as Mark Twain, and his texts right into a looking critique of contemporary identification in a mass-mediated society. "Littery Man" will entice either Twain students and to students and scholars of nineteenth-century American literature and culture.

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"Littery Man": Mark Twain and Modern Authorship (Commonwealth Center Studies in American Culture)

As Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens straddled the conflicts among tradition and trade that characterised the period he named the Gilded Age. In "Littery Man", Richard Lowry examines how Twain used those conflicts in his significant texts to model an "autobiography of authorship," a story of his personal claims to literary authority at that second whilst the yankee author emerged as a career.

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His very popularity lead him by 1877 to confront the issues of fame and celebrity, audience and medium, canonized literature and the marketplace, more directly than virtually any other writer at the dinner, and, by the end of his life, any other writer of his era. It is from this stance that the miner's question is so important. For at the center of Twain's parody lay not just a question about his own identity, but a challenge to the presumed authenticity of literary authorship in general. If the value of Twain's nom de plume depended on the authenticity of the "gracious singers," then their names, of course, depended on his.

38 The Rhetoric of Authorship 25 The neatness of these dualities, however, are challenged by the fact that, in 1877, there was no single "institution" of letters. Rather, Twain delivered his talk to an audience of writers as suspended between roles as he was. An event that may, at first glance, seem to have been a relatively straightforward affirmation of a canonical tradition was, in fact, a conflicted moment in a complex reordering of the institutions of authorship, one that would both alter the economic and cultural bases on which writers could build their careers and would revise the values and uses that their work represented to society at large.

Thus, Henry Houghton, who only four years ago had bought the magazine for $20,000 from James Osgood (who also attended), was using the occasion to give his periodical the same public "presence," the same cul- The Rhetoric of Authorship 31 tural authority, as the men he celebrated. He wanted to endow the Atlantic as the institutional voice of elite American letters—to establish its language as the country's preeminent literary language and its writers as the embodiments of an identifiable tradition of canonical literature.

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