NORMAN – Late 19th-century Americans, especially artists, were captivated by the mystery, exoticism and beauty of the Mediterranean region. Mark Twain was not.

 

A free lecture Friday, April 29, at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art considers the famous writer’s perspective following his visit to Europe. David Levy, University of Oklahoma David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus of History, will present the lecture, titled Mark Twain Tours the Mediterranean – and Is Not Overwhelmed, at 6 p.m.

 

This lecture is held in conjunction withthe exhibition, Mediterranea: American Art from the Graham D. Williford Collection, which continues through May 15; the lecture is free and open to the public.

 

In 1867, young Twain decided to join a group of tourists on a journey to Europe and the Holy Land. His sarcastic descriptions of the experience set Americans laughing uproariously and established his reputation as the country’s leading satirist.

 

“Mark Twain’s sarcastic account of his trip to the Mediterranean in 1867 was greeted by everyday Americans with uproarious laughter and tremendous enthusiasm,” Levy said. “That account became his book, Innocents Abroad, which was bought and read and loved by countless of his fellow citizens. It established Twain, still in his mid-30s, as the country's leading humorist. The popularity of Twain’s book also can tell us a great deal about the mood of the nation that responded so warmly to his caustic comments.”

 

During his tenure at OU, Levy was honored with the Regents’ Award for Superior Teaching and the Student Association’s prize for outstanding teacher. A specialist in American intellectual history, he has authored or co-edited 10 books, including The Debate Over Vietnam (JHU Press, 1991), FDR’s Fireside Chats (Penguin, 1993), and a new edition of William Dean Howells’s 1894 novel A Traveler from Altruria (St. Martin’s, 1996).

 

“Dr. David Levy’s publication, Mark Twain: The Divided Mind of America’s Best-Loved Writer, made him the ideal person to discuss our exhibition’s connection to Twain’s Innocents Abroad, which chronicles his Grand Tour of the Mediterranean,” said Susan Baley, director of education at the FJJMA. “Dr. Levy is well known as an engaging speaker and writer, and we are honored tohave him speak at the museum.”

 

On display through May 15, Mediterranea explores the major cultures and monuments of the Mediterranean region through the art works of Americanartists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Made possible through a generous loan from the Jean and Graham Devoe Williford Charitable Trust, the exhibition features several dozen works depicting landscapes, seascapes andiconic topography.

 

An exhibition catalog is available in the Museum Store.

 

The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is located in the OU Arts District on the corner of Elm Avenue and BoydStreet, at 555 Elm Ave., on the OU Norman campus.

 

Admission to the museum is free to all OU students with a current student ID and all museum association members, $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children 6 to 17 years of age, $2 for OU faculty/staff and free for military veterans with proof and children 5 and under. The museum is closed on Mondays and admission is free on Tuesdays. The museum’s website is www.ou.edu/fjjma. Information and accommodations on the basis of disability are available by calling (405) 325-4938.

 

Construction on a new wing is under way, but the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is open and fully functional with exhibitions and programming throughout the entire construction process.

 

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