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The Review of Politics


Through his modern "Yankee," Mark Twain reveals to his readers the underlying desire to overcome the very material world he seems to want to instantiate. Although the Yankee seems a modern man who simply wants to create the conditions in Arthurian England by which his body will be most comfortable, both his zeal for this project and the trajectory of his soul's course during the book betray an underlying hope to overcome his "mortal coil" through first technological and then political projects. In charting the impetus and evolution of the Yankee's psychology for us, Twain teaches us much about the nature of the "modern project"--its underlying hopes and its potential for dangerous, even totalitarian, excesses. As appealing as the starkly contrasting Arthurians might be, given this insight, Twain does not ultimately endorse this position but shows that its explicit claim does not ultimately satisfy our desire for noninstrumental goods.




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