“Taking the Tour: Heritage Management in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”

This chapter appears in "Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History": Series 3 | Vol. 17.

Mark Twain begins A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court with a preface justifying anachronism, that the “laws and customs” are “historical,” as are the episodes “used to illustrate them.”1 He explains, “One is quite justified in inferring that whatever one of these laws or customs was lacking in that remote time, its place was competently filled by a worse one.” The genesis of the ideas informing my argument share Twain’s spirit of reconciling histories that may at first seem anomalous. In 1988, I attended an NEH Institute, “Arthur of Avalon,” directed by Paul Szarmach at the State University of New York at Binghamton. It was, as its name suggests, medievalist rather than medieval and included two field trips: one to Mark Twain’s summer house, part of Quarry Farm, in Elmira, New York; and the other to the Morgan Library in New York City, where William Voelkle shared numerous medieval manuscripts as well as his expertise. This past summer, I visited Mark Twain’s house in Hartford and William Gillette’s “folly” in nearby East Haddam, Connecticut, and had a sense that the latter had recreated Camelot as modernized by Twain’s Hartford born and bred character, Hank Morgan. The actor and the writer knew each other.

Were my assumptions historical? Does it matter? Or, rather, did it matter to Twain? What matters to an argument about tourism and heritage management in Twain’s novel, where he, as I am doing here, reflect on why we visit old castles, renovated castles, follies, ruins, and museums associated with someone else’s history? Twain was writing about his own time, informed by his experiences, as I am writing about mine, partly informed by Paul’s decision to make visiting Mark Twain’s studio part of a program for understanding Arthur of Avalon. Requiescas in pace, Paulus.

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Work Title “Taking the Tour: Heritage Management in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”
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Open Access
Creators
  1. Sandy Feinstein
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
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  1. Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History
Publication Date January 1, 2023
Deposited March 29, 2024

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