Date of Award

5-1-2019

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Shapiro, Joseph

Abstract

Mark Twain’s novels often prominently feature a reanimation of historical narrative. Twain often uses these historical narratives archetypally in order to add his novelistic voice to cultural dialogue about complex issues like race and gender. In the first chapter of this thesis we examine Twain’s refashioning of Medea as an ancient archetype. By crafting Laura Hawkins from The Gilded Age as a version of Medea, Twain is able to challenge his culture’s depiction of “bad” womanhood and to nuance his culture’s view of political womanhood. In the second chapter of this thesis we examine Twain’s presentation of race and slavery in Connecticut Yankee. In both of these instances we examine how Twain’s novelistic representation allows him to be dialogic instead of didactic—to engage and problematize certain aspects of his culture’s morality without providing pat answers. Our study of Twain’s use of historical narrative will employ Bakhtin’s theory of the novel, as we consider how Twain’s novels are simultaneously “in conversation with” Twain’s present and versions of the distant past.

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