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Title:Dreaming Other Dreams: Persona and Humor in Mark Twain's Early Writings
Author(s):Florence, Donald Eugene
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Michelson, Bruce
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, American
Abstract:In his early writings, Mark Twain tries to transcend life's incongruities and polarities by developing a flexible persona and kaleidoscopic humor. Dissipating distinctions, Twain uses humorous play to express variegated tones and perspectives. Through humor's plasticity, Twain volatilizes world and self; he asserts his power to make the world and himself anew. Mark Twain evolves into a fluid persona who can convert almost any situation into fantasy and fun, who can transform our sense of reality through comic fictions.
In his Western journalism, Twain plays upon the hoaxes of the West, suggesting the illusoriness and multiplicity of existence. With increasing sophistication he indicates how unknowable the "objective" world is--and hence how open to imaginative reshaping. He develops a humorous frontier pragmatism, though his persona is not yet sufficiently inclusive to shift mood and perspective easily.
In The Innocents Abroad Twain confronts the cultural ambiguities of the Old World. Trying to blend change with stability, multiplicity with unity, realism with romanticism, Twain begins cultivating his persona from his own humorous resources, relatively undetermined by any cultural context. The book is as much about Mark Twain as about the Old World. But he is not entirely able to remake the Old World to fit the demands of humor and narrative.
In Roughing It persona and humor emerge victorious, albeit at a price. Twain becomes the supreme shaping force of his book, the arbiter of what meaning is, of what reality is, of what humor is. He controls his book and his world, conjuring images and new perspectives at will; he dreams through humor the world of his book. He changes stance and form easily, escaping fixed ideas, divisions, and conventions. Through the self-sufficiency of humor Twain rises superior to circumstance; the danger is that he will find himself abstracted into the void, his persona so fluid as to dissolve. In subsequent works Twain will try to be both supreme and communal, protean and stable--he will seek to project a literary consciousness that is both transcendent and earthy.
Issue Date:1993
Description:250 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1993.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9329028
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1993

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