Mark Twain
The Fate of Humor
James M. Cox
376 pages
5.25 x 8.25

Formats available:
Paperback   $35.00 SH
ISBN: 978-0-8262-1428-7

About the Book

In Mark Twain: The Fate of Humor, James M. Cox pursues the development of Mark Twain’s humor through all the forms it took from “The Jumping Frog” to The Mysterious Stranger. Instead of seeking the seriousness behind the humor, Cox concentrates upon the humor itself as the transfiguring power that converted all the “serious” issues and emotions of Mark Twain’s life and time into narratives designed to evoke helpless laughter. In those sudden moments of pleasurable helplessness, we glimpse the great heart of a writer who imagined freedom in the slave society of his youth and discovered slavery in the free country of his old age.

For this edition of Mark Twain: The Fate of Humor, the author has written a new introduction showing how and why Mark Twain remains a central figure in American life; he has also appended an essay disclosing why Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will always be a hard book to take.


James M. Cox is Professor Emeritus of English at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Recovering Literature’s Lost Ground: Essays in American Autobiography and the editor of the Penguin edition of Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi.

The Mark Twain and His Circle Series, edited by Tom Quirk and John Bird


"One of the great strengths of James M. Cox's challenging study lies in his demonstration that `Mark Twain' was not the writer's alter ego but a `gesture, the meaning of which was to continue emerging through Samuel Clemens's life'. . . . On the identity of `Mark Twain' and on other matters of primarily biographical interpretation, few scholars have been so illuminating."—South Atlantic Quarterly


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