The Collaborative Age
  • Susanna Ashton


In the 1873 preface to The Gilded Age, Twain’s first novel and the one that named an era, Twain wrote “This is—what it pretends to be—a joint production, in the conception of the story, the exposition of the characters, and in its literal composition.” Twain’s elliptical aside that the work “pretends to be” a joint production signals the dilemma which this book explores. Was Twain correcting himself, as if to say “This is, or rather, this has the pretense of being jointly done but it wasn’t really,” indicating that the text was not what it appears to be? In his comment, Twain highlights the complexity of the collaborative premise, and acknowledges that a joint production demands explanation. The implications are significant; what understanding of authorship necessitated that the phrase “a joint production” be approached so cautiously? Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner’s novel has long attracted critics who examined it for insights into Twain’s early career, capitalism, and American individualism. Few scholars, however, have grappled with the implications of The Gilded Age as a collaborative text. Scholars who address the novel tend to do so in the context of Twain’s theories of literary structure rather than in the fuller context of professional authorship in the late nineteenth century. To consider The Gilded Age an aberrant gimmick is to miss its signal importance: Twain and Warner’s novel marked the beginning of an age in which popular authors came together to write collaboratively.


Science Fiction Joint Production Title Page Literary Genre Collaborative Writing 
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© Susanna Ashton 2003

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  • Susanna Ashton

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