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Wednesday, April 22 • 10:30am - 10:50am
Butchered to Make an Austrian Holiday: Morality vs. the Crowd and How Never the Twain Shall Meet

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The Moral Sense, that affliction which gives us the ability to tell right from wrong, is not a virtue, but our greatest curse according to Mark Twain. In The Mysterious Stranger, he creates a village asleep in 16th century Austria not unlike St. Petersburg in Huck Finn or Camelot in A Connecticut Yankee, but this time the moral voice is not found in a time traveler or a young boy raised on the fringes of civilization. This time, Twain admits defeat and realizes there are no truly moral humans in his story, so he introduces us to an unfallen angel with the surname of Satan, born without the Moral Sense. This freedom of choice, this knowledge of good and evil is wholly absent in the animal kingdom, and much the better they are for it. They are innocent of pogroms, lynch mobs, and witch burnings, but according to human doctrine, it is they who are excluded from heaven. Twain has told us throughout his body of work that life is lived more freely and harmoniously in nature, and your morals and character degrade when you are a member of the group. I will argue that this makes him an unwitting transcendentalist. Where Huck was able to see the inherent sin of slavery in antebellum Missouri because he connected to nature separate from the community, Theodor shares in the collective guilt of his community due to his immersion in it.

Wednesday April 22, 2015 10:30am - 10:50am PDT
038 Karpen Hall