Serialization and "The book of Mrs. Eddy" : a rereading of Mark Twain's Christian Science materials.




McPherson, Ginger Lee.

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Mark Twain’s Christian Science, his last major published work, is rarely read or examined within Twain scholarship. The book is generally considered to be weak, hastily written, and overly passionate, which has left it collecting dust on the shelf. Previous scholarly readings, however, have been mis-readings because Christian Science is surprisingly methodical and is significant to scholarship when studied within its late-nineteenth-century context. This dissertation provides a suitable reading of Christian Science by examining the book within the cultural confines in which it was composed. Christian Science first appeared to readers serially, which means nearly half its content was published in five articles prior to the appearance of the book. Four out of the five articles have never been republished or examined heretofore in Twain scholarship, and all five have considerable individual merit when read apart from Christian Science. Reading the articles prior to and in congruence with the book, however, as a late-nineteenth-century reader would have, demonstrates Twain’s evolution of thinking, from which the new material in Christian Science makes a logical argumentative shift. The shift in direction, nevertheless, puts Twain into a structural quandary, which he must rectify by splicing and recasting the previously published material. The book, then, becomes entirely dependent upon a reading of the early articles for essential meaning. Altogether the Christian Science materials exemplify Twain’s meticulous concern for form and for audience, which is contrary to general scholarly consensus about much of Twain’s later writings. Reading Christian Science as a serial book also provides a detailed account of Twain’s unique compositional process, which included not only reworked publications but collaboration with William D. McCrackan and Frederick W. Peabody. Christian Science undoubtedly tells a compositional tale unlike any of Twain’s other books and adds much to current scholarly dialogue about the inseparability of form and content within Twain’s later writings.