Gribben, Alan 1941–

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Gribben, Alan 1941–


Born November 21, 1941, in Parsons, KS; son of John S. (an executive in graphic arts) and Ruth Elaine (a homemaker) Gribben; married Irene Wong (a school guidance counselor), February 14, 1974; children: Walter Blake, Valerie Janet. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: University of Kansas, B.A., 1964; University of Oregon, M.A., 1966; University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D., 1974. Politics: Independent. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Bicycling, tennis, collecting rare books and recordings (particularly bands of the 1930s and 1940s), gardening.


Home—Montgomery, AL. Office—Department of English and Philosophy, Auburn University at Montgomery, P.O. Box 244023, Montgomery, AL 36124-4023; fax: 334-244-3740. E-mail—[email protected].


University of California, Berkeley, research editor of "Mark Twain Papers," 1967-74, instructor in English, 1972-73; University of Texas at Austin, Austin, assistant professor, 1974-80, associate professor, 1980-88, professor of English, 1988-1991; Auburn University at Montgomery, Montgomery, AL, professor of English and head of department of English and philosophy, 1991—, distinguished research professor, 1998-2001, Dr. Guinevera A. Nance Alumni Professor, 2006-09, English composition director, 2007-08. Elmira College, Jervis Langdon, Jr., research fellow in residence at Center for Mark Twain Studies 1987, Henry Nash Smith fellow, 1997-99; Mark Twain Journal, member of board of trustees; Mark Twain Memorial, Hartford, CT, honorary trustee, 1980—. Guest lecturer at educational institutions, including State University of New York College at Potsdam, Utah State University, Baylor University, and University of Alabama; guest on media programs; public speaker. Member of editorial board of the series "Studies in American Realism and Naturalism," University of Alabama Press, 2005—; also member of editorial board, Studies in American Humor, 1982—, University of Mississippi Studies in English, 1986-97, Studies in American Fiction, 1988-97, Western American Literature, 1991-98, and American Literary Realism, 2004—.


Mark Twain Circle of America (honorary life member; cofounder, 1986; president, 1987-89; member of executive committee, 1990-92), American Literature Association (member of executive board, 1989-96), American Humor Studies Association, South Atlantic Modern Language Association (chair of American literature section, 1979-80).


Katherine Ross Richards centennial teaching fellowship, 1988-89; Alumni Faculty Service Award, Auburn University at Montgomery, 2005.


Mark Twain's Library: A Reconstruction, two volumes, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1980.

(Editor, with Nick Karanovich) Overland with Mark Twain: James B. Pond's Photographs and Journal of the North American Lecture Tour of 1895, Center for Mark Twain Studies (Elmira, NY), 1992.

Harry Huntt Ransom: Intellect in Motion, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2008.

Contributor to books, including introduction to Mark Twain's Rubáiyát (poetry), Jenkins Publishing (Austin, TX), 1983; also contributor to The Mythologizing of Mark Twain, edited by Sara de Saussure Davis and Philip D. Beidler, University of Alabama Press (University, AL), 1984; American Humor, edited by Arthur P. Dudden, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1987; Mark Twain's Humor: Critical Essays, edited by David E.E. Sloane, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1993; and A Companion to Mark Twain, edited by Peter Messent and Louis J. Budd, Blackwell Publishing (Oxford, England), 2005. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including ESQ, Mississippi Quarterly, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, South Central Review, Poe Studies, and American Quarterly. Book review editor, American Literary Realism, 1982-83; associate editor, Libraries and Culture, 1980-90.


Alan Gribben once told CA: "I was born and reared in a southeast Kansas railroad town, where my paternal grandfather worked in the locomotive shops after immigrating [to the United States] from Belfast, Ireland. He later opened an auto dealership, and my father founded a successful graphic arts firm.

"I attended the University of Kansas at Lawrence. In my junior year, I moved out of my social fraternity and became active in the civil rights movement. When I relocated to the West Coast in 1964 I participated passionately in the anti-Vietnam War marches and teachins. I earned a master's degree in English from the University of Oregon at Eugene, studying under Kester Svendsen and A. Kingsley Weatherhead, and then transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where I worked with James D. Hart, Larzer Ziff, Gordon O. Taylor, and Frederick Crews. I was twice arrested during student demonstrations in Berkeley, and I wrote an article about the brutal treatment of prisoners I witnessed during the hours I was held in Sproul Hall and a police van. Gradually, however, I became disillusioned with the dogmatic Marxism and unfeeling opportunism of the leadership emerging in the New Left, and when California activists glorified the stomping and punching of a campus policeman on patrol, condoned the murder of a Japanese-American policeman during a routine traffic stop, and exulted in the assassination of a Bay Area newspaper foreman during a labor strike, I began to move away from my unquestioning support for leftist causes connected with campus protests.

"Around the same time, in 1971, I met and married Irene Wong, a third-generation Chinese-American student from Fresno. To support my graduate studies, I worked as a research editor for the Mark Twain Papers (later renamed the Mark Twain Project) between 1967 and 1974. My supervising editor was Frederick Anderson, who oversaw the editing and annotating of two University of California Press series presenting Twain's published and unpublished writings, and who inculcated in his editorial team a high standard for scholarly productivity and accuracy. While employed with the Mark Twain Papers, I encountered many of the leading Twain specialists of that era—including Henry Nash Smith (under whom I would write my doctoral dissertation), Walter Blair, Lewis Leary, William M. Gibson, John S. Tuckey, James M. Cox, Hamlin Hill, and Louis J. Budd. In conversations with these professors, I resolved to dedicate my own scholarly career to the investigation of numerous problems that still remained unresolved in Twain studies.

"I began with the question of the contents of Twain's personal library, which had been widely dispersed before and following Twain's death in 1910. This research continued for ten years, during which I logged over 11,000 miles in my determination to examine as many surviving association copies as possible. (The expertise I developed subsequently enabled me to detect and expose a number of forgeries in books that had been inscribed and sold as having once belonged to Twain.) The New York Times took notice of the resulting work that I published in 1980—Mark Twain's Library: A Reconstruction, described in American Literature as ‘invaluable,’ in Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography as ‘a phenomenal job on a monumental task,’ and in American Literary Realism as ‘one of the indispensable reference works.’ My two-volume, 958-page book collected information on 4,135 books that Twain and his family owned, read, or mentioned, but also listed and described nearly 1,500 other stories, essays, poems, plays, operas, songs, newspapers, and magazines with which Twain was familiar.

"By the time Mark Twain's Library appeared, I was teaching at the University of Texas at Austin; in 1988 I would be promoted to the rank of professor in the department of English after having served as its graduate chairperson for two terms. I also was a cofounder and president of the Mark Twain Circle of America and of its allied interest group within the South Atlantic Modern Language Association. Besides extending my investigation of Twain's library and reading, my publications encompassed the literary importance of Mark Twain, his attempts at poetry, his fascination with the occult, his scatological writings, his business ventures, his proprietary attitude toward his autobiography, his evolving attitudes toward the Civil War, his endeavors to shape his image for posterity, the functions of Tom Sawyer as a literary character, and numerous related topics. One exception to my focus on Mark Twain consisted of my editing, in 1985, the first selection of Edith Wharton's love letters to Morton Fullerton ever to appear in print.

"In 1991 my academic career took an unlikely and controversial turn when I resigned from the University of Texas at Austin, citing the refusal of the university administration to intervene after I had reported enduring four years of organized harassment and ostracism by politically radical colleagues and students following a departmental dispute over the direction of the English graduate program. Stating that I was departing reluctantly and in disillusionment, I wrote two newspaper letters blowing the whistle on an agenda to politicize the mandatory freshman English composition course by removing instruction in grammar and style and indoctrinating the students with race-, class-, and gender-based reading materials slanted to highlight failures of the United States. The resulting furor and my role in it were covered nationally by many newspapers and magazines and elicited the first ironical usage of the term ‘political correctness,’ which figured in critiques such as John M. Ellis's Literature Last: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities (1997), and received detailed treatments by Peter Collier and David Horowitz (Surviving the PC University, 1993), George Will (The Leveling Wind, 1994), Richard Bernstein (Dictatorship of Virtue, 1994), and other writers.

"Since that disruption in my teaching and studies I have served as the head of the Department of English and Philosophy at Auburn University Montgomery, a commuter branch of Auburn serving nontraditional students. I write the annual ‘Mark Twain’ chapter surveying recent books and articles for American Literary Scholarship and have published dozens of essays, chapters, and reviews on my favorite subject. My work is periodically energized by the Mark Twain studies conferences sponsored by Elmira College, where I mingle with both senior and junior commentators on Twain. Beginning with the inception of my very first scholarly article—an examination of Twain's recurring interest in phrenology that appeared in American Quarterly in 1972—I have invariably marveled at the manner in which anyone can, by studying Mark Twain and his wide circle of intellectual and social acquaintances, attain a vastly enlarged understanding of the entire literary world and cultural scene of the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries."



AUM Today, winter, 2004-05, Gayle Walden, "Twists of Fate: Alan Gribben," pp. 13-15.

Chronicle of Higher Education, September 8, 1993, Liz McMillen, "New Theory about Mark Twain's Sexuality Brings Strong Reactions from Experts," pp. A8, A15.

Mark Twain Journal, fall, 1991, Ronald Wesley Hoag, "All that Glitters Is Not Mark Twain," pp. 2-9.

New York Times, November 16, 1980, "Image of Mark Twain as ‘Eccentric’ Reader Is Refuted in a Study," p. 46; August 1, 1997, Robert D. McFadden, "Mark Twain Back Home in Hartford," p. A15.