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Sentimental Twain

Sentimental Twain
Samuel Clemens in the Maze of Moral Philosophy

Gregg Camfield

296 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth 1994 | ISBN 9780812232851 | $79.95s | Outside the Americas £64.00
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512807134 | Buy from Combined Academic Publishers £64.00
An Anniversary Collection volume

In Sentimental Twain, Gregg Camfield examines the major and minor works of Mark Twain to redraw the boundaries between sentimentalism and realism in the second half of the nineteenth century. Beginning by taking the reactions to the question of race in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a test case, Camfield reveals that sentimental ethics persist, though buried, in American culture, and he argues that Americans' ambivalent responses to sentimentalism explain some of the continuing controversy surrounding Mark Twain's work. Specifically, he contends, insofar as the liberal agenda remains substantially sentimental—especially when dealing with issues of race—today's readers of Twain participate in the same dialectic between sentimental compassion and realistic cynicism that Twain himself confronted.

Camfield then traces the cultural development of this ethical dialectic and follows Mark Twain's reactions to it, showing that Twain was a closet sentimentalist whose public attacks on sentimentalism veiled a deep longing for a more compassionate world. Throughout, Sentimental Twain is grounded in a discussion of philosophical contexts of nineteenth-century American sentimental literature, paying particular attention to the Scottish Common Sense philosophers but looking forward to the Pragmatism of William James.

Gregg Camfield is Professor in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts at the University of California, Merced.

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