A recently discovered copy of William Prime’s “Tent Life in the Holy Land”, containing marginal comments by Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) is interesting on several levels. Long known to be an important source for Clemens’s early and biggest popular success, “The Innocents Abroad”, this annotated copy gives access to Clemens’s thoughts as he read Prime. In addition to the insight this offers regarding Clemens’s creative process and what Prime’s text and Clemens’s strong reaction to it has to say about the continuity of our troubled and complicated relationship with the cultures of the Middle East, from another perspective, the spontaneity and interaction evident in this example of Clemens’s habits of reading and writing speaks to our relationship to the written word. Clemens grappled with the changing nature of this relationship throughout his career and, as Bruce Michelson points out, if his late writings “can be construed as pushed to the edge of an abyss by technological change, they can also be read as resisting the fatal plunge.” In this age of the Kindle, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the increasing fragmentation of our engagement with the written word what does Twain’s experience have to say to us about the persistence and importance of the literary endeavor.
|Keywords:||Literature, Technological Change, Marginalia, Intertextuality|
Head of Technical Services, Mark Twain Archivist, CollegeArchivist, Gannett-Tripp Library, Elmira College, Elmira, NY, USA
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