Mark Twain under Fire

Mark Twain under Fire

Reception and Reputation, Criticism and Controversy, 1851-2015

Joe B. Fulton


Camden House



Tracks the genesis and evolution of Twain's reputation as a writer, revealing how and why the writer has been "under fire" since the advent of his career.

Threatened by a rival editor brandishing a double-barreled shotgun, young Samuel Clemens had his first taste of literary criticism. Clemens began his long writing career penning satirical articles for his brother's newspaper in Hannibal, Missouri. His humor delighted everyone except his targets, and it would not be the last time his writing provoked threats of "dissection, tomahawking, libel, and getting his head shot off." Clemens adopted the name Mark Twain while living in the Nevada Territory, where his caustic comedy led to angry confrontations, a challenge to a duel, and a subsequent flight. Nursing his wounded ego in California, Twain vowed to develop a reputation that would "stand fire" and in the process became the classic American writer.
Mark Twain under Fire tracks the genesis and evolution of Twain's reputation as a writer: his reception as a humorist, his "return fire" on genteel critics, and the development of academic criticism. As a history of Twain criticism, the book draws on English and foreign-language scholarship. Fulton discusses the forces and ideas that have influenced criticism, revealing how and why Mark Twain has been "under fire" from the advent of his career to the present day, when his masterpiece Huckleberry Finn remains one of America's most frequently banned books.

Joe B. Fulton is Professor of English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He has published four previous books on Mark Twain.


November 2016
1 black and white illustrations
306 pages
9x6 in
Literary Criticism in Perspective
ISBN: 9781571135537
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004020, LIT024040, HIS036040
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Table of Contents

"A Reputation That Can Stand Fire": Mark Twain's Early Reception through 1910
"All Right, Then, I'll Go to Hell": Mark Twain's Disputed Legacy, 1910-1950
"Only One Right Form for a Story": Mark Twain and Cold War Criticism, 1950-1970
"Everyone Is a Moon, and Has a Dark Side": New Phases of Mark Twain Criticism from the 1970s through the 1980s
"It Is Difference of Opinion That Makes Horse-Races": Mark Twain as a Partisan in the Culture Wars, 1990s to 2015
Works Cited

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