The two narratives published together in The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins are overflowing with spectacular events. Twain shows us conjoined twins, babies exchanged in the cradle, acts of cross-dressing and racial masquerade, duels, a lynching, and a murder mystery. Pudd’head Wilson tells the story of babies, one of mixed race and the other white, exchanged in their cradles, while Those Extraordinary Twins is a farcical tale of conjoined twins. Although the stories were long viewed as flawed narratives, their very incongruities offer a fascinating portrait of key issues—race, disability, and immigration—facing the United States in the final decades of the nineteenth century.
Hsuan Hsu’s introduction traces the history of literary critics’ response to these works, from the confusion of Twain’s contemporaries to the keen interest of current scholars. Extensive historical appendices provide contemporary materials on race discourse, legal contexts, and the composition and initial reception of the texts.
“Hsuan Hsu’s fine edition of Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins charts the complex interplay between formal innovation and historical analysis central to understanding Mark Twain’s purposively flawed tale. Hsu offers a comprehensive introduction, situating the novel within Twain’s career and the broader concerns of racial segregation and violence, citizenship, and embodiment facing the US in the final decade of the nineteenth century. Equally useful are the appendices, which provide background information on the narrative’s legal and historical contexts. They situate Twain as both a vantage onto the most pressing social issues of the 1890s and a writer experimenting with the novel form at the height of his craft. This edition establishes Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins as one of Twain’s great works of social commentary and aesthetic innovation.” — Edlie L. Wong, University of Maryland
“Hsuan Hsu’s edition of Pudd’nhead Wilson breaks new ground in the historical contextualizing for which Broadview is known. In both the quantity of documents, reviews, and essays that are provided and especially the structure of the appendices, this Pudd’nhead Wilson is a quasi-manifesto for the historicizing of a literary text. Three of the six appendices rethink the way we have constructed the novel’s socio-historical contexts, ranging from Legal Contexts, to Race Discourse, to the last, Contexts of Embodiment, in which Siamese twins and fingerprinting are brought together through the intersecting marginalization of African-American, immigrant, and disabled subjects. This is a Pudd’nhead Wilson for our times as well as—perhaps even more than—Twain’s.” — Susan Gillman, University of California, Santa Cruz