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Editors' Introduction: New Perspectives on 'The War-Prayer'


"The War-Prayer," written a hundred years ago as Mark Twain reflected on the conditions surrounding the U.S. decision to embark on the imperialist venture known as the Philippine-American War, speaks to us across time in strikingly uncanny ways. Although today "The War-Prayer" is increasingly accessible to readers worldwide, this important piece by Mark Twain has never received the critical attention that it warrants. Neither has it occupied the place that it deserves in the Mark Twain canon, or in the American literary canon. In the years since its first publication in 1923, it has often been reprinted. But it rarely appears in anthologies of American literature, and it is among the least well-known works by Twain as far as the general public is concerned. Indeed, educated individuals are often startled and shocked when they are introduced to this piece, dumbfounded as to why they never encountered it before. A question worth pondering: How might American history and world history in the 20th century have been different if "The War-Prayer" had been as familiar to every high school student as Tom Sawyer? As editors of this international forum on "The War-Prayer" in Mark Twain Studies, we are pleased to be able to give this important work by Mark Twain some of the attention that it has long deserved.

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