Rojas, Martha [faculty advisor, Department of English
performance; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; Mark Twain; literature; 19th Century
Samuel Clemens, in his persona of Mark Twain, is recognized as one of the preeminent performers of the nineteenth century both on stage and in print. Twain clearly reveals his views on performance in his book, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In reviewing the text of the novel, I have examined the aspects and forms of performance Twain disclosed in relation to his characters. I have focused on: importance of dialect, power of costume changes, and the significance of settings.
A Connecticut Yankee (1889) describes the journeys of Hank Morgan, a time traveler from nineteenth-century Connecticut, into sixth-century England during the reign of King Arthur. Morgan’s knowledge and belief in industrialization changes and influences King Arthur’s court toward “progress,” but culminates in the destruction of the kingdom. Morgan also engages in multiple performances, earning the new name of “The Boss,” to amaze the citizens and earn their respect as a magician, although he lacks any supernatural power.
My project undertakes an examination of how Twain effectively employs the concept of performance in A Connecticut Yankee. Both Morgan and Arthurian society engage in performances to sustain and further the development of society deploying costumes, manufactured miracles, trickery, and deceit to assume new roles. I also illustrate how the historical Twain, himself a Connecticut Yankee, uses performance during his lectures and to create his literary identity.