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MELISSA ASHER RAUTERKUS University of Alabama at Birmingham The National Body Divided: America, Italy, and Mark Twain’s Literary Caesarian Operation in Pudd’nhead Wilson FOR OVER A CENTURY NOW,SCHOLARSHIP ON MARK TWAIN’S PUDD’NHEAD Wilson (1894) has had much to say about miscegenation, passing, and race training. Countless books and articles devote their attention to Roxy’s drop of black blood, Tom’s imitation whiteness, and Chambers’s learned inferiority complex. Yet very few scholars and studies say anything substantial about the Italian twins. It goes without saying that miscegenation, passing, and race training are major themes of grand significance in Pudd’nhead Wilson. But there is a common tendency amongst critics to focus on these issues within a domestic framework that pays more attention to the categories of “black” and “white” than it does to that of “alien.” Put another way, critics of Pudd’nhead Wilson often discuss the problems that race poses for the black and white characters in the novel, but ignore its significance to the representation of the Italian twins, their “inbetween” racial designation, and the transnational dimension of the text.1 Inspired by the famous Tocci brothers, Twain’s twins were initially conjoinedatthehip.2 Personifyingalight-dark,good-bad,andultimately a North-South dyad, the twins struggle for control over a single pair of 1 Historian David R. Roediger defines the “inbetween” as a racial formulation that manynewimmigrants—thosearrivingfromSouthernandEasternEuropebetween1886 and 1925—occupied as probationary whites, existing somewhere inbetween nonwhiteness and whiteness in addition to black and white. Roediger acknowledges the historian John Higham’s use of the term, as well as the religious scholar Robert Orsi’s contribution to it (11-13). 2 Most scholars agree that Twain modeled his twins after Giacomo and Giovanni Tocci, the dicephalus Italian twins of international acclaim. Like Angelo and Luigi, these cultural oddities, were joined from the rib down, possessing four arms and two legs (Sundquist 260). According to Susan Gillman, Twain most likely saw them on exhibit in 1891 and based his twins on them, having been inspired by the “cultural mythology that arose around Siamese twins at the time” (55). 516 Melissa Asher Rauterkus legs. But in the wake of what Twain dubbed a “literary Caesarian operation,” the conjoined twins were pulled apart. Having determined that Pudd’nhead Wilson was not one text, but two fused together, Twain detached the tales and the conjoined twins from one another—a compositional reenactment, if you will, of the drama of civil war. In haste to publish the novel, Twain did not go back into the manuscript to remove all references to conjoined twins.3 As a result, traces of a more perfect union can be found throughout the text. If Twain’s Caesarian operationteachesusanythingaboutsurgery,composition,ornationalism for that matter, it is that complications will arise when conjoined twins, novels, or nations divide. And as Twain’s poor editing job may suggest, separation is not always complete or without its own unique set of problems. Using the twins’ separation as a metaphor of sorts for the crises of secession and fragmentation, I contend that the twins may help us better understand the cultural rift in America and in Italy during the middle and latter years of the nineteenth century. In an American context, their separation may add to the discussion about the national rupture caused by slavery and civil war. In the Italian context, their separation may shed light on the deep fissure between a bourgeois European-North and a so-called barbaric African-South. Acknowledging that Twain’s Caesarian operation may have resulted in separate texts, but not completely severed brothers, I insist that the traces of conjoined twins in Pudd’nhead Wilson can teach us much about regionalism, separatism, and national identity. Figuratively, the twins’ imperfect separation is emblematic of one of the central conflicts in the history of American and Italian nationalism: the tension between cultural/racial separatism and cultural/racial pluralism (or the conflict between regionalism and nationalism). In bringing Pudd’nhead Wilson into conversation with America and Italy, I also aim to show how the turn towards transnationalism can provide us with a better understanding of how cultural and/or racial paradigms...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2689-517X
Print ISSN
0026-637X
Pages
pp. 515-533
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-27
Open Access
No
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