Date of Submission

Spring 2014

Academic Programs and Concentrations


Project Advisor 1

Alexandre Benson

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Employed in a high school in the Mid-Hudson Valley, Teacher # 3 (an educator interviewed for this Project) hopes that her pupils can “be like Huck Finn.” She desires that her students identify with and model themselves on the character. My approach to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn stems from this hope for identification. I carefully read learning within Mark Twain’s book so that I might better understand this teacher and the ways in which students can “be like” Huck. Engaging close reading, and by consulting Twain’s “What Is Man?” and various works by John Dewey, I argue in Chapter I that Twain situates Huck between two theories of education: the author’s own determinist “training” and a Deweyan imagining of progressive education. Huck regularly articulates racist content, of course, so the text might sanction utterances of hate speech and cause, as Toni Morrison claims, “offense … [to] black students” and a “corrosive effect … on white ones.” These effects remain concerning, so by consulting teacher interviews and speech act theory, I examine in Chapter II how Twain uses the “n”-word in his text and how the novel might model training and progressive education in high school English classrooms. I conclude by analyzing the model more generally, or by positing the implications of students identifying with Huck.

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On-Campus only

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