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Exhibition examines Twain`s response to modernising America

New York: An exhibition here in September will explore a central, recurring theme throughout iconic author Mark Twain`s body of work -- his uneasy, often critical, attitude towards a rapidly modernising America.

Opening September 17, the exhibition at The Morgan Library and Museum coincides with the 175th birth anniversary of Twain`s birth and includes more than 120 rare books, letters, notebooks, diaries, photographs, and drawings associated with the author`s life and work.

"Mark Twain: A Skeptic`s Progress" will be on view through January 2, 2011.

"For Twain, the idea of progress was both enticing and, at the same time, challenging, and he approached it with his characteristic irony and incisive commentary," says William M Griswold, director of The Morgan Library and Museum.

"The handwritten manuscripts, letters, drawings and other artifacts included will be a visual and intellectual delight for anyone who visits, and we are proud to partner with the Morgan to bring those coveted items to the public," said Paul LeClerc, president of The New York Public Library.

Mark Twain`s life spanned an era that saw much of the world -- America in particular -- embrace the Industrial Revolution. With the expansion of transportation and communications technology, there was a cultural shift from small-town rural concerns to a large-scale national agenda centered around great cities.

For Twain, such technological, industrial, and urban developments were the means by which America might become a more prosperous and just society and also realize the nineteenth-century dream of universal progress.

In his final two decades, the skeptic saw his worst fears justified by the advance of European imperialism and its attendant atrocities in Africa and Asia, as well as by America`s own expansionist ambitions, the organisers said.

The exhibition features extensive portions of autograph manuscripts of two key non-fiction works of Twain, whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens -- `Life on the Mississippi` (1883) and `Following the Equator (1897)`.

Also on view are numerous leaves of the autograph manuscript of `A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur`s Court (1889)`, a fable that grows increasingly grim as Twain shows how the well-intentioned use of technology leads to self-destruction because of humanity`s incorrigible selfishness and need to worship authority.

The exhibition is supplemented with handwritten manuscripts and typescripts of other works by Twain, his letters and correspondence, drawings and illustration mock-ups for printed editions, photographs, and several three-dimensional artifacts.

PTI

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