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“Pathetic, Obsolete Smiles” of A Connecticut Yankee: American Modernity’s Self-Derisive Trauma and Afterward

Authors
김지윤
Issue Date
Dec-2022
Publisher
한국근대영미소설학회
Citation
근대영미소설, v.29, no.3, pp.79 - 103
Journal Title
근대영미소설
Volume
29
Number
3
Start Page
79
End Page
103
URI
https://yscholarhub.yonsei.ac.kr/handle/2021.sw.yonsei/6326
ISSN
1229-3644
Abstract
This paper joins the recent affective turn in Mark Twain studies, rethinking A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court as a trauma narrative of the postbellum industrial working class. This approach adapts the first-wave trauma theories, which are in close affinity with the American modernity of the late nineteenth century, the time when the perils of technological progressions refashioned the word “trauma” to denote psychical injuries. Resonating within this milieu, the protagonist Hank Morgan gets in a factory accident that connotes his loss of productivity. He flees from its shock into medieval fantasy, but his alienated “atom” echoes through derisive laughter in that memoryscape, cracking his illusion with its fear, shame, and anger. Eventually, Hank fails to engage with such emotions again, falling into the second dream and losing the opportunity to communicate his pain. Thus, his travelogue remains an unfulfilled attempt at restoring his congealed time-consciousness, embodied by his final rictus, “pathetic, obsolete smiles.” At long last, the baton of survival is handed over from the dead Hank to his witness, M.T., and hence on to readers. This paper concludes that the next adaptation of this novel should ethically participate in Hank’s suffering by attending to the critical laughter from his open wounds, not suturing them with another self-delusion.
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