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Flagler professor looks at the American Dream through the eyes of Mark Twain

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Wesley King

Wesley King will wrap up the 2012 Community Lecture Series on Dec. 11 with a talk on Mark Twain and the Gilded Age.

Dec. 3, 2012

It’s hard to discuss the “Gilded Age” of America without touching on the man who coined the term, the iconic American writer Mark Twain. Wesley King will do just that when he wraps up the 2012 Community Lecture Series on Dec. 11.

In "Mark Twain's ‘Gilded Age’ and the Lure of the West,” King, an assistant professor of English at Flagler College, will look through Twain’s eyes at the experience of the American dream versus the American reality at the end of the nineteenth century.

“My lecture will focus on Twain’s 1873 novel ‘The Gilded Age’ and his 1872 autobiographical novel ‘Roughing It,’” said King. “Twain coined the term ‘The Gilded Age,’ to describe the conflict between the vast disparity of wealth in the second half of the 19th century and the increasingly conspicuous consumption of the very rich.”

King added that Twain’s novel, “Roughing It,” on the other hand, satirizes the draw of the West, a region that lured many with promises of great wealth.

“This lecture should be important for the St. Augustine community not only because the social problems that Twain identified still persist today, but also since the town itself underwent great growth and change during this period, while being led by the values of the ‘gilded’ class,” said King. “These are values about which Twain was highly critical.”

King has a Ph.D. in English language and literature from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in literature from Claremont McKenna College. His areas of specialization are 19th-century American literature and culture, African American literature, critical theory and film.

King’s lecture is the final installment of this year’s lecture series entitled “Reconstruction & Gild: Wealth, Innovation and the Pursuit of Status in Late 19th Century America” which focuses on defining moments in American history during the mid to late 1800s. Speakers will discuss the topic through the lens of their particular discipline.

Tickets are $5 per person. Active military personnel may attend at no charge. Lectures begin at 10 a.m. in the Flagler Room at Flagler College, 74 King St. Reservations are required, but space is limited. The lecture will last approximately one hour and will be followed by a coffee and pastry reception.

For reservations or more information, call Holly Hill, Assistant Director of College Relations at (904) 819-6282. To watch a live stream of these lectures, visit