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Mark Twain and the Art of the Tall Tale

by Henry B. Wonham

  • ISBN: 9780195078015
  • ISBN10: 0195078012

Mark Twain and the Art of the Tall Tale

by Henry B. Wonham

  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Oxford Univ Pr on Demand
  • Publish date: 03/01/1993
  • ISBN: 9780195078015
  • ISBN10: 0195078012
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Description: Mark Twain and the Art of the Tall Tale explores a predominantly American comic strategy and its role in Mark Twain's fiction. Focusing on the writer's experiments with narrative structure, Wonham describes how Twain manipulated conventional approaches to reading and writing by engaging his audience in a series of rhetorical games - the rules of which he adapted from the conventions of the tall tale in American oral and written traditions. After surveying the rich history of yarn-spinning in America, Wonham traces Twain's appropriation of the genre through the course of his career, from The Innocents Abroad to Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Pudd'nhead Wilson. He contends that as Twain turned from short sketches to extended travelogues and quasi-fiction, he found in the tall tale a means of dramatizing his disparate comic material. Later, as Twain worked consciously to purge his writing of its anecdotal quality, the oral genre remained central to his imagination - less as a source of comic material than as a paradigmatic encounter between competing points of view, an encounter that resonates throughout the author's major fiction. Offering an original interpretation of Twain's narrative and rhetorical techniques, this absorbing and readable study will interest Twain enthusiasts and students of nineteenth-century American literature, as well as anyone interested in American humor and oral narrative traditions.
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