Solomon Eytinge, illustration for John Hay's "Jim Bludso" (1871)
I've got an article coming out in the next issue of the Mark Twain Journal (Fall 2015): “‘The Mississippi was a virgin field’: Reconstructing the River Before Mark Twain, 1865-1875.” This one was a long time coming! As you can see here, I've been working on this since at least 2009. Gosh, I think it might be even longer. Anyway, I'm delighted that it's coming out in the Mark Twain Journal, and I'm equally delighted with how many illustrations they've allowed me to include. It should look pretty lovely, at least. This is my attempt to build a picture of the cultural life of the Mississippi in the decade before Mark Twain properly claimed the river as a subject. It's still amazing to me how rich this subject is - I look at steamboat races, bridge building, art, literature, travel writing, and plenty of other things too. More information here on the journal's website. I'll update this post when it's available online. Enjoy.
I was thrilled to be invited to contribute something to the latest edition of the The Southern Quarterly, a special issue on the Mississippi that also features river luminaries like Christopher Morris, Michael Allen and Barbara Eckstein. All told, it's a brilliant slab of river writing that does a lot to cement the development of a field of study around the Mississippi - something that's been bubbling for the last few years. My article's titled "Roustabouts, Steamboats, and the Old Way to Dixie: The Mississippi River and the Southern Imaginary in the Early Twentieth Century." I take a look at a neglected body of river writings that blossomed between the publication of Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), his last major statement on the river, and Edna Ferber's Show Boat (1926), which redefined the river for decades to come. I focus on late-career works by Southern writers like George Washington Cable, Ruth McEnery Stuart and Mary Noailles Murfree, explore a variety of travel accounts, and end up in Tin Pan Alley. For those who have access, you can browse the entire issue here through Project Muse. Alternatively, I've uploaded my article here - enjoy.
Long time, no update - so a quick couple of posts about things that I've been doing over the last year (gosh). First, television news. I'm featured in Episode 3, Season 3 of Myth Hunters - "The Lost Ship of the Mojave Desert" - mainly talking about the California Gold Rush. This was a fun gig. Here am I am, holding forth:
For the moment, the American version is available on YouTube, so grab it while you can, below. Otherwise, it'll undoubtedly pop up again on a history channel of some variety:
And then, at the end of last year, it was a pleasure to talk about highwaymen for Anglia News (the local news channel for Norwich and parts east) to commemorate the long-awaited opening of a road, the A11 (told you it was local news). Here I am, bloviating again, this time chez UEA:
I'm thrilled to be co-organising the next BrANCA (British Association of Nineteenth-Century Americanists) Reading Group in November. I'm even more thrilled about our choice of text: we'll be discussing Anna Katherine Green's pioneering detective novel The Leavenworth Case (1878), one of the bestselling books of the late nineteenth century. I'll put up a post on American Scrapbook about both the book and Green sometime soon. In the meantime, get your copy from Project Gutenberg here, or there's a Penguin Classics edition available if you prefer. Happy reading. And you can find out about what we got up to at the last Reading Group in Manchester here.
UPDATE: Full details about the event are now available on the BrANCA website.