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Acting Naturally: Mark Twain In The Culture Of Performance
by Randall K. Knoper
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The phenomenon of performance is central to Mark Twain's writing and persona. But Twain's performative aspects have usually been dismissed as theatrical and discounted as lowbrow burlesque. Randall Knoper takes Twain's theatricality seriously and shows how Twain's work both echoes and engages the social and cultural problems embodied in nineteenth-century popular entertainments.
Knoper draws on theater history, theories of acting and bodily expression, psychology and physiology, scientific accounts of spiritualism, and commercial spectacles to demonstrate Twain's use of "acting" and the "natural" in his creative explorations. This book enlarges our understanding of Mark Twain--the artist and the man--and also provides a window into a culture whose entertainments registered the sexual, racial, economic, and scientific forces that were transforming it.
From the Inside Flap
"Clarifies why understanding Mark Twain's writing is essential to understanding enduring patterns and problems in American culture. Conversely, it compellingly illustrates why one does not fully understand Mark Twain's work unless one has some understanding of America's preoccupation with performance, conspicuous display, and the mental sciences."--Howard Horwitz, author of By the Law of Nature: Form and Value in Nineteenth-Century America
"In place of the strictly literary frame of reference that has previously organized the Twain canon, Knoper productively focuses on the spectrum of theatrical attitudes whereby Twain reconfigured his culture's race and gender hierarchies into the power to construct social realities differently. This work is sure to play a significant role in the reinvention of Mark Twain for the New American Studies."--Donald E. Pease, editor of Revisionary Interventions into the Americanist Canon
"Knoper takes up quintessential aspects of Twain's writings, mind, and career. . . . [He] is brilliant in enunciating clearly and coherently ideas and attitudes that Twain either held confusedly or intimated almost unintentionally."--Louis J. Budd, author of Our Mark Twain
From the Back Cover
"Clarifies why understanding Mark Twain's writing is essential to understanding enduring patterns and problems in American culture. Conversely, it compellingly illustrates why one does not fully understand Mark Twain's work unless one has some understanding of America's preoccupation with performance, conspicuous display, and the mental sciences." (Howard Horwitz, author of By the Law of Nature: Form and Value in Nineteenth-Century America)
About the Author
Randall Knoper is Associate Professor of American Literature and American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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