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  • Steinbeck Today
  • Kathleen Hicks (bio)

This past May, dozens of Steinbeck scholars and fans gathered at the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University for an international conference entitled, “Steinbeck and the Politics of Crisis: Ethics, Society and Ecology.” It was an exciting event, drawing scholars from nations as far away as Slovenia, India, and Japan. Sessions were held on a diverse and interesting range of topics and included many new perspectives on classics such as The Pearl, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath. The conference also included fiction readings from the 2012–2013 Steinbeck Fellows, L. Rebecca Harris and Marian Palaia. Dr. Susan Shillinglaw read from her new biography of Carol Henning Steinbeck, Steinbeck’s first wife. Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage is schedule to be released in October 2013.

Mimi R. Gladstein, long-time President of the John Steinbeck Society of America, gave the conference keynote address, which traced the presence of the Edenic myth in some of Steinbeck’s major works. The keynote was given on the occasion of the passing of the Society’s leadership to Dr. Luchen Li who has graciously agreed to serve as the new president. The Society (which has changed its name to International Society of Steinbeck Scholars) hopes to expand its scope and membership and host more frequent conference and symposium events to encourage the continued production of excellent scholarship by new generations of Steinbeck scholars. The presence of many graduate students at the conference is strong testimony to burgeoning scholars’ continued efforts to investigate subjects of personal and social relevance heretofore unexplored in the author’s many works.

Coordinator of the Steinbeck in the Schools project, Richard Wright, who has been diligently working to make the project widely available on the web for educators, spoke about the status of the project’s new website at the conference as well. White reports that the Steinbeck in the Schools project has experienced a very exciting and productive year. By the end of September 2013, all of the Steinbeck in the Schools’ curricular materials will be online at the new home site,, where educators can access in-depth curricula for Of Mice and Men [End Page 160] and The Red Pony. The lesson plans include resources for teachers working with English Language Learners and are designed to be interactive, adaptable, and to comply with the new Common Core Standards. The site also includes context on historical, geographical, and philosophical influences on Steinbeck and his works. All of the materials are available free of charge to both teachers and students.

Wright is also excited to announce the launch of the project’s pilot program for the fall of 2013. Steinbeck in the Schools will be working with nearly two dozen high school teachers who will beta-test the Of Mice and Men curriculum. Each teacher will choose lesson plans to use in the classroom and provide valuable feedback for improving and expanding the curriculum before its national debut. Additionally, The Red Pony curriculum will be piloted by a teacher in Shanghai, China. Future plans for the project include creating a multi-media resource section on the Steinbeck in the Schools’ site. Users will be able to access some of the extensive collection of audio and video resources housed at the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. Wright invites additional inquiries about the project by email at

Finally, conference attendee and Salinas resident, William Ray, recently launched a new website dedicated to the interests of Steinbeck at The mission of is to provide people with the opportunity to answer the invitation Steinbeck issued to his own readers:

John Steinbeck invited readers to participate in his fiction. Steinbeck Now is an international community of Steinbeck lovers who accept the writer’s invitation. An independent information resource with no institutional affiliation, is a not-for-profit, non-commercial educational portal developed to benefit the public. accepts original articles and art with a fresh, transformative perspective on Steinbeck’s life, thought, and persona.

(“Join the Conversation”)

Ray invites interested fans and...


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pp. 160-165
Launched on MUSE
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