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March 4, 2010 Volume 31, No. 22

‘Marking Twain’ celebrates the life and legacy of Missouri native son

Show-Me showcase

Weeklong event explores Twain’s timeless appeal

A century after his death and 108 years after he traveled to campus to receive an honorary degree, Mizzou is celebrating the life and work of Missouri native son Mark Twain during a weeklong event March 17-20.

“Marking Twain: A Centennial Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910,” will feature talks by Twain scholars from MU and other universities, an exhibit that includes historical clothing from Twain’s era, and other events on campus and at the Columbia Public Library.

One of the featured speakers will be Ron Powers, an MU alumnus who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a Mark Twain biographer and co-author of the best seller, Flags of Our Fathers. Powers will give a series of lectures on Mark Twain topics at 4 p.m. on three successive evenings — March 17, 18 and 19 — in Memorial Union’s Wrench Auditorium. At 7 p.m. March 18 there will be a concert reading of Powers’ new play, Sam and Laura, in Memorial Union’s Stotler Lounge.

In keeping with the Twain centennial spirit, the State Historical Society of Missouri is sponsoring an exhibit “Mark Twain and Tom Benton: Picture, Prose and Song,” that opens March 13 and runs through Aug. 20. The exhibit showcases drawings by Benton from the society’s collection that illustrated Twain’s works, portraits of the two Missourians, even Mark Twain’s pipe and Benton’s handwritten sheet music.

“Both men’s work is easily understood, yet complex and evocative – their art was about and for the common people, guaranteeing a timeless appeal.  The society takes special pride in sharing collections of these native sons whose work displays a genius for illustrating the American character through Missouri and Missourians,” says Joan Stack, a curator at the historical society.

To kick off the exhibit, titled “Mark Twain and Tom Benton: Picture, Prose and Song,” MU’s Department of Textiles and Apparel Management will showcase period clothing from its Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection from 5 to 7 p.m. March 13 at the historical society.        

“Why do people still care about Mark Twain? He profoundly shaped American literature, and his persona is somewhat of a mystery,” says Tom Quirk, professor of English and an internationally known Twain scholar. “Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.’ The chances Twain took, the quality of his dialect, his adoptive persona and his prose are important literary elements other writers can learn from.”

 “Mark Twain’s birthplace has become an American icon,” says Keith Eggener, associate professor of American art and architecture at MU who has written about the childhood homes of famous Missourians. “An ordinary two-room, log cabin has become a shrine that represents American frontier roots and innocence.”

A complete schedule and more information about the event is available at