What Mark Twain Said Regarding Regime Changes and Other Righteous American Foibles

Peter Schmidt teaches U.S. literature and history and is also Chair of the Department of English Literature. The talk is drawn from his current book project, scheduled for publication in 2007: Brier-Patch: Fictions of Race and Nation in the New South, 1865-1920. Mark Twain criticized American expansionism in the Caribbean and the Pacific in the 1890s and after, which justified itself as racial uplift and the liberation of oppressed peoples into democratic modernity. He pointed out how hypocritical and contradictory such projects were, given immense racial inequality and violence at home. Twain also raged against how democratizing projects abroad were often covers for the expansionof corporate power, not democratic values. Needless, to say, Twain's comments have a disturbing relevance to current events, as is discussed at the end of the talk. Twain's opinions are also juxtaposed against a representative sampling of other writers of his time, so that you can get a sense of the wide range of opinions regarding "regime change" in the name of democracy that existed during this period.