Abstract

In the 1881 trial of the presidential assassin Charles Guiteau, one witness invoked the character of Colonel Sellers from Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age (1873) as a means of refuting Guiteau’s plea of insanity--a moment when reading Twain took on national significance. I argue that the pairing of Sellers and Guiteau (reasserted in Twain’s later novel The American Claimant [1892[) reveals a crucial tension in Twain’s political imagination, in which insanity first grounds a cynical critique of legal and political corruption, then provides an optimistic yet ultimately insufficient antidote to the paralysis of that cynicism.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 173-197
Launched on MUSE
2013-03-15
Open Access
No
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