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By Mark Twain

Switched at beginning via a feminine slave who fears for her little one son's lifestyles, a light-skinned baby alterations locations with the master's white son.

This basic premise underlies Twain's engrossing 19th-century story of reversed identities, an eccentric detective, a terrible crime, and a stressful court docket scene.

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Extra info for Pudd'nhead Wilson

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1 Compared to ‘‘democracy,’’ ‘‘the novel’’ is relatively easy to define. As a genre the novel characteristically focuses on contexts and relationships – the individual in society, the one in relation to the many. In contrast to more limiting forms such as the sonnet or the drama, the capacious novel has few formal requirements beyond the development of characters, the description of a setting, and the unfolding of a plot. Historically the novel has often been identified as a ‘‘democratic’’ form because of this generic flexibility, as well as its relative accessibility to readers.

The excesses of democracy and the traces of monarchic depravity coincide here in the fantastic figure of the sibling–lover. I would contend, moreover, that it is a version of this coincidence that anxious cultural commentators detected in the popular fiction of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Fiction’s broad license (everything and everyone could, in principle, enter its domain) drew attention to the dangers as well as the possibilities opened up by a radicalization of representability; and the conflation of democratic equality with the forbidden eroticism of sibling incest effectively suggests the thrill that fiction’s suspense – and democracy’s promise – offers so promiscuously.

RE F ERE NCE S AN D FU RT H E R READI NG Agamben, Giorgio (2000). Means without End: Notes on Politics, trans. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Balibar, Etienne (1994). Masses, Classes, Ideas: Studies on Politics and Philosophy before and after Marx, trans. James Swenson. New York: Routledge. Barnes, Elizabeth (1997). States of Sympathy: Seduction and Democracy in the American Novel. New York: Columbia University Press. Baym, Nina (1984). Novels, Readers and Reviewers: Responses to Fiction in Antebellum America.

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