Book Reviews -- Mark Twain, Culture and Gender: Envisioning America through Europe by J. D. Stahl

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Mark Twain, Culture and Gender: Envisioning America Through Europe. J.D. Stahl. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1994. xvii + 231 pp. Bibliography, index. $35.00 cloth.

Forever and correctly linked to essential American themes in popular judgment, Samuel Clemens nonetheless lived abroad for much of his career and the "matter of Europe" balances the "matter of Hannibal" in his canon. His complex relationship with the Britain and the continent has engendered significant inquiry, from Howard Baetzold's magisterial Mark Twain and John Bull to Carl Dolmetsch's recent "Our Famous Guest": Mark Twain in Vienna.

Stahl, unlike these predecessors, is not concerned with the relation of Clemens to particular places, or even much with the author's evolving judgments about European culture. Rather, Stahl posits that "the Otherness of European culture represented an opportune opening, a convenient staging ground for exploring his fears, desires and ideas about women, men, and their relations with each other" (177). In the pet-the-cat-backwards method of much contemporary criticism, the game here is to find the seams and inconsistencies in the works, to expose submerged agendas, unexamined assumptions. His chosen texts are The Innocents Abroad, 1601, The Prince and the Pauper, Joan of Arc, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and The Mysterious Stranger. …