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Competence, Power, and the Nostalgic Romance of Piloting in Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi

Competence, Power, and the Nostalgic Romance of Piloting in Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi Competence, Power, and the Nostalgic Romance of Piloting in Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi by Brian McCammack Mark Twain's fascination with competence and power is evident in many of his characters, particularly in his largely autobiographical works that explore his formative experiences in the western frontier-- Roughing It and Life on the Mississippi. While Twain admires aspects of both powerful characters and competent characters, in the final analysis competence commands more of his respect than does sheer power. He often expresses ambivalence toward powerful characters in his texts, while competent characters are almost always revered. Embedded in discussions of power and competence are conflicting romantic visions of a radically individualistic western American character. One vision derives from the myth of a Wild West violent individuality, the other from a more scientific and professional rugged individualism. Yet the relation cannot be so easily reduced to a sort of binary; there are many complexities and ambivalences prevalent in Twain's writing on this subject. Several critics have explored aspects of these issues as they appear in Roughing It and Life on the Mississippi, but the interrelations between Twain's attitude toward issues of competence and power and his romantic nostalgia for http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

Competence, Power, and the Nostalgic Romance of Piloting in Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 38 (2) – May 31, 2006

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2006 by the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461
Publisher site
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Abstract

Competence, Power, and the Nostalgic Romance of Piloting in Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi by Brian McCammack Mark Twain's fascination with competence and power is evident in many of his characters, particularly in his largely autobiographical works that explore his formative experiences in the western frontier-- Roughing It and Life on the Mississippi. While Twain admires aspects of both powerful characters and competent characters, in the final analysis competence commands more of his respect than does sheer power. He often expresses ambivalence toward powerful characters in his texts, while competent characters are almost always revered. Embedded in discussions of power and competence are conflicting romantic visions of a radically individualistic western American character. One vision derives from the myth of a Wild West violent individuality, the other from a more scientific and professional rugged individualism. Yet the relation cannot be so easily reduced to a sort of binary; there are many complexities and ambivalences prevalent in Twain's writing on this subject. Several critics have explored aspects of these issues as they appear in Roughing It and Life on the Mississippi, but the interrelations between Twain's attitude toward issues of competence and power and his romantic nostalgia for

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: May 31, 2006

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