Mark Twain had only a middling opinion of editors. They were doomed to corruption, forever selling some item or idea in order to meet the next deadline or pay the next bill. And if they weren’t morally compromised, they were tin-eared or self-important or just plain stupid. In a 1906 letter to Henry Mills Alden, published in the Chicago Daily Tribune, Twain reflects, “How often we recall, with regret, that Napoleon once shot at a magazine editor and missed him and killed a publisher. But we remember with charity, that his intentions were good.”
I have to admit that during my tenure as the editor of The Mark Twain Annual, I have occasionally felt Twain’s target on my back. And why not? During the now six years of editing the Annual, I’ve published the work of scholars arguing that Twain’s writing was imperialist, or derivative, or flawed; there have been suggestions that Twain himself was racist, and sexist, and even Christian—the latter charge he may have resented the most. Of course, the Annual has also continued to highlight the great complexity of Twain’s artistic vision and the power of his legacy. Both established and emerging scholars have demonstrated Twain’s scope and intellect; they have read his work in the context of everything from nineteenth-century women’s literature, to China’s cultural revolution, to game theory, to the politics of the literary canon, to the rise of the telephone. Scholars have heard in Twain’s language echoes of West Indian dialects, and they have seen in his imagery forerunners of the graphic novel. Contributors to the Annual have examined everything in Twain’s literature from his use of the cave as metaphor to his thematic treatment of Limburger cheese.
If, hovering out there in the liminal space between Twain’s atheism and his spirituality, there’s something like a ghost of Sam Clemens, he must be, predictably, divided between feeling flattered and outraged by all of our interpretive processes. As the editor of The Mark Twain Annual, however, I have to assume the attitude of Huck Finn and assert, “I don’t take no stock in dead people.” The goal of the Annual has not been to honor the ghost or idol [End Page v] of Mark Twain, but to engage the most exciting and provocative scholars in the field of Twain studies. As I read the submissions during the past six years, including this current volume, I feel that we’ve done so.
When I took over as editor from John Bird in 2009, I inherited a new and vibrant journal that was already attracting fine work from remarkable writers. And unlike many academic journals, The Mark Twain Annual has invited and valued the contributions of working teachers out there in the rough and tumble world of public and private-school education. It’s a mission we continue to honor in this year’s Annual with submissions by two teachers: Jennifer Gaye, a seasoned instructor reflecting on Mark Twain and the high school curriculum; and Alyssa Alexander, a newly minted teacher working to adapt Twain to her pedagogy and the realities of her classroom. Additionally, the 2013 Annual continues to highlight the work of established literary critics, emerging scholars, and graduate students, and this year we even include an essay from Clemens himself.
So, as I head off into that dusty place where editors go to bother no one with their marginal notes and formatting changes, I feel that the Annual is in good shape, and I know that I am leaving it in exceptional hands. The 2013 edition is our first publication with Penn State University Press, whose commitment to the work of scholars and academic publishing is manifest in the great care it’s taken of the Annual, among its several other major-author journals. In other changes, our indefatigable book review editor, Joe Csicsila of Eastern Michigan University, has decided to end his extraordinary eleven-year run in that post. He will be turning over his duties to the expert care of Kerry Driscoll of St. Joseph University...