Mark Twain and Economy


The entire Fall issue of American Literary Realism is about Mark Twain’s Economy. An excerpt from the introduction to that volume argues that, “the essays collected in this special issue of ALR encourage us to reassess Mark Twain’s purported economic naivete. There is no question that he took enormous and ill-considered risks as an investor, and the biographical record is accurate in understanding him as a quixotic financier. Nevertheless, Plasmon and typesetting machinery aside, the most significant investment of Twain’s business career was unquestionably the literary persona he crafted with such care and over which he asserted rights of “ownership” that tested the era’s understandings of authorship, patent law, the nature of property, and literary copyright. Scholars such as Lawrence Howe and Judith Yaross Lee have begun to explore this largely uncharted commercial terrain, and their essays in this issue produce a different image of “Mark Twain, Business Man” than the pudd’n headed one we thought we knew. …Brian Gazaille invites us to reconsider Twain’s thinking about technological progress by exploring Connecticut Yankee’s fraught relationship with the rhetoric of industrial reform. He argues that, “a more complicated understanding of the novel’s industrial critique emerges when we read it alongside concomitant changes in the era’s concept of machine efficiency.”