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Growth: The Most Rigorous Law of Our Being

What is the most rigorous law of our being? Growth.”
Mark Twain, from “Consistency,” a paper read in Hartford in 1887 (RPT CTSS1, 909).

Thursday, August 4 to Sunday, August 7, 2022

Established in 1989, the Center for Mark Twain Studies “International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies” is the oldest and largest gathering devoted to all things Twain. During times so turbulent and uncertain as to require that that the quadrennial conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies be postponed by a year, the theme of change and growth “speaks to our condition,” as the Quakers say.

The conference will be held from Thursday, August 4 to Sunday, August 7, 2022 on the campus of Elmira College in Elmira, New York. In addition to scholarly presentations, the conference will have events that provide contexts for Mark Twain and his life in Elmira, and will also feature a keynote by Jimmy Santiago Baca, an award-winning writer for whom Twain has been an important influence.

Jimmy Santiago Baca

An important focus of the conference will be scholarly discussion of the study of Mark Twain and how the field might grow and change in response to changing conditions in the world, in the academy, and in the field of Twain Studies. We encourage all proposals to address how your scholarship might help us think about growth and change in the context of our studies of Mark Twain. We have included a list of questions at the end of this announcement to help spark your thinking.


In keeping with the theme of the conference, we encourage scholars to consider how different ways of presenting your scholarship to the audience might encourage growth and conversation. We encourage you to be open to ideas such flash presentation sessions in addition to standard 20-minute paper presentations and as roundtables.

Paper presentations—20-minute presentations of scholarly arguments and discoveries

Roundtables—groups of 3-5 scholars each present for roughly 10 minutes on a theme or topic, leaving significant time and space for discussion

Flash Presentations – In addition to roundtables and sessions comprised of individual papers, we will be forming several sessions in which scholars each present for up to 5 minutes on a central subject as a way to spark conversations. Topics might range from “fresh pedagogical approaches to teaching Connecticut Yankee” to “which work by Twain does not get enough attention” to “how can we continue to grow and expand Twain studies.” Please indicate in your submission whether you might be interested in participating in a flash session, and do share suggestions for topics for flash sessions.

Each person may present a paper OR participate in a roundtable. However, you may participate in a flash session in addition to presenting a paper or being on a roundtable.

We encourage you to connect your proposal to the theme of “growth” and to think about how your scholarship can help to grow and change the field.

Proposals for presentations or roundtables (700 words) should be emailed as a Word document to Joseph Lemak at by Friday, January 7, 2022. Include a cover letter containing your contact information (name, mailing address, etc.) in the body of the email. Proposals will be reviewed anonymously by members of the conference planning committee.

We invite papers on any aspect of Mark Twain’s work and legacy, but have a particular interest in the questions listed below:

  • How might Twain scholarship change in the future?

  • What are the dynamics of growth and change in Twain’s ideas, moral attitudes, literary aesthetics, etc.?

  • What lessons about coping with change can Mark Twain teach us?

  • How did changing circumstances in Twain’s life shape changes in his thinking and writing?

  • Why and how do Twain’s characters grow or change?

  • How does travel–in the U.S. and abroad–change Samuel Clemens and the works of Mark Twain?

  • How might we look at Mark Twain and his era in new ways?

  • How does our understanding of Samuel Clemens and Mark Twain change when scholars consider disease, financial panic, and cultural upheaval?

  • How can or should our teaching of Mark Twain and his time change?

  • What impact did the radically shifting racial structures in the U.S. have on Samuel Clemens and Mark Twain?

  • How can the study of Mark Twain and his era help scholars and students understand systemic racism?

  • How might Mark Twain fit into an anti-racist pedagogy?

  • How has America’s response to Mark Twain changed over time?

  • When Mark Twain’s works are translated into other languages, how do they change and what cultural work do they do?

  • How have responses to Mark Twain around the world changed over time?

  • How do we grow and change as scholars? As teachers?

  • What previously neglected texts by Twain speak to us today and deserve to be reconsidered?

  • What ideas that we had earlier would we now change or reject?

Important Dates and Deadlines

  • Paper and panel proposal deadline – Friday, January 7, 2022

  • Decisions deadline – Friday, February 26, 2022

  • Conference registration begins – Friday, February 26, 2022

  • Conference registration deadline – Friday, July 15, 2022

  • Elmira 2022 Conference – Thursday, August 4 to Sunday, August 7, 2022

Mark Twain Circle Graduate Student Workshop

Ph.D. candidates are invited to apply for a 4-5 day workshop, which is scheduled to take place immediately following the August 4-7, 2022, Ninth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies. Students will work with a mentor and with each other, with ample time for writing and with access to the Twain archives at Elmira College and at Quarry Farm. Successful applicants will be housed, free, in Elmira College dormitories and provided with breakfasts and lunches for the duration of the workshop, which will take place both on campus and at the Farm. They will also be provided with a $200 stipend and, depending on need, up to $300 more towards travel expenses.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit proposals to and/or attend the Ninth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies as well as the workshop. Students selected for the workshop who also choose to attend the conference will have their conference fees, lodging, and food waived—a $600 package.

For more information about the Mark Twain Circle Graduate Student Workshop, click HERE.

Conference and Housing Fees

The registration fee for Elmira 2022 – including all breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, special receptions, and programs is:

  • Full Conference Registration – $375

  • Daily Rate – $140

Conference-goers will benefit by an option to stay in Elmira College’s residential halls. The residence halls are organized into singles and doubles. Selection of specific room types will be based on a “first come, first serve” basis.

  • Lodging at EC Meier Hall (with A/C) – $70 per night

  • Other EC dormitories (without A/C) – $50 per night

Registration will begin Friday, February 26, 2022

Conference Co-Chairs

  • Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Stanford University

  • Tracy Wuster, University of Texas at Austin

Conference Planning Committee

  • John Bird, Winthrop University, emeritus

  • Jocelyn Chadwick, National Council of Teachers of English

  • Ben Click, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

  • Susan K. Harris, University of Kansas, emerita

  • Tsuyoshi Ishihara, University of Tokyo

  • Ronald Jenn, University of Lille

  • Holger Kersten, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg

  • Selina Lai-Henderson, Duke Kunshan University

  • Judith Yaross Lee, Ohio University, emerita

  • Joseph Lemak, Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College

  • James S. Leonard, The Citadel

  • Linda A. Morris, University of California, Davis, emerita

  • Matthew Seybold, Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College

  • Seema Sharma, University of Mumbai


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