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Mark Twain and Male Friendship : The Twichell, Howells, and Rogers Friendships

ISBN: 9780195391169 | 0195391160
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Pub. Date: 10/30/2009

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Combining biography, literary history, and gender studies, Mark Twain and Male Friendship examines three profoundly influential and vastly different friendships in the life of the author of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. With accessible prose informed by extensive research, the study begins by exploring the relationship between Mark Twain and his pastor Joseph Twichell, highlighting the latter's role as mentor and spiritual advisor as a way to explore the great author's conflicted religious beliefs. Messent then shifts gears to consider fellow author and sometime rival William Dean Howells who serves as a prism through which to spotlight the literary marketplace of 19th-century America and reveal Twain's competitive streak. A third unlikely friendship between Twain and Standard Oil robber baron H.H. Rogers illuminates Twain's attitude toward business and explores how Rogers and his wife served as a surrogate family for the novelist after the death of his own wife. Throughout, Messent uses the existing work on male friendship and gender roles as a springboard to place these friendships in terms of changing conceptions of masculinity and of men's roles both in marriage and in the larger social networks of their time. He also considers the friendships against a larger ideological backdrop in which the status of these four men-as socially privileged white males-very much conditioned both the form of the friendships and the way they functioned. Ultimately, Messent's study provides a unique perspective on one of America's greatest novelists while at the same time giving us a distinctive cultural history of male friendship in nineteenth-century America.

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