Davis duo reads again

Published 10:39 am Thursday, September 7, 2017

ELMIRA, NY – Dr. John Davis, Professor of English at Chowan University, recently participated in the Quadrennial International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Affairs, held at Elmira College in Elmira, New York. This year marked the fifth time over a span of 17 years Dr. Davis has presented at this conference.

Among 68 scholars representing six countries and 27 states, Dr. Davis, in a paper entitled “Telephone, Television, Tell-a-Story: Mark Twain’s Use of Future Technology as Plot Device,” spoke about Twain’s use of technology ahead of his time. Not simply references in the works in which they appeared, they were integral to the plots.

Hugh H. Davis, English Instructor and Media Specialist at C.S. Brown Stem High School, and his father, Dr. John Davis, Professor of English at Chowan University, recently presented papers at the Quadrennial Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies, held in Elmira, NY.

The three-day conference, held every four years, takes place on the campus of Elmira College and at Quarry Farm, the home of Samuel Clemens’ wife’s sister where the Clemenses would vacation every summer, allowing Twain time and space to write. Although the octagonal study where Twain escaped from the melee of the children and cats has now been moved to the Elmira College campus, one of the highlights of the conference is the “pilgrimage” to the site on the Farm where the study originally stood, overlooking the Chemung River and Valley.

An added attraction for this year’s conference was a visit to Park Church, founded in 1846 by Clemens’ father-in-law, Jervis Langdon, and a group of like-minded abolitionists. Located across the street from the Langdon home, the church was an important part of the Underground Railroad, as was Elmira College. The church, with a long history of activism in the community, housed Elmira’s first public library.

Also presenting at this year’s conference was Hugh H. Davis, English Instructor and Media Specialist at C.S. Brown-Stem High School in Winton. This was the younger Davis’ second time to present in Elmira, this time with a paper entitled “On Teaching Huck Finn: Reflections from the Secondary Classroom.” Davis was one of two second-generation Twainiacs to present at the conference and one of only a handful of secondary teachers there.

Among scholars from various states and countries as well as a variety of professions, the two Davises echo each other as they speak of the atmosphere of the “life of the mind” one experiences at such conferences. From shared breakfasts to before-bedtime-happy hours, the conversations center around research and writing.

Both look forward to the next major Twain conference which will be held in Hannibal, Mo, in 2019 as well as the next Elmira conference in 2021.