We're celebrating the 175th birthday of Mark Twain!
"As Webster Is My Witness": Language, Lies and Laughter in Mark Twain
Mark Schenker of Yale University will survey the ways in which speaking and mis-speaking are used to convey the satire and seriousness of Mark Twain's fiction.
In Chapter 26 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Huck tells a series of outright lies about his having lived in England and met the King.
His listener responds with skepticism and requires Huck to place his hand on a big book and swear that he is telling the truth. Huck notices that the book in question is not a Bible but "nothing but a dictionary," and so he makes his false oath, confident that technically he is not perjuring himself.
This scene of Huck's swearing on a dictionary is emblematic of how language itself throughout the work of Mark Twain operates as testament, as the source of Twain's various professions of belief: language as spoken speech, language as exaggeration, language as lies for comic or satiric effect. (Image at left, courtesy of flickr user marklarson.)
A mere 75 miles from here, in Hartford, Connecticut, and 126 yeas ago, Mark Twain penned The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Schenker, currently an associate dean of Yale College and dean of academic affairs, will make the trip to Darien to discuss language, lies, and laughter.
Join us right here in your home town where the (ahem) twain shall meet.