- Engaging the World with Steinbeck:A Message from the President of the International Society of Steinbeck Scholars
With resounding success, The John Steinbeck Society of America hosted the conference “Steinbeck and the Politics of Crisis, Ethics, Society, and Ecology” at San Jose State University, California held May 1–3, 2013. Scholars from around the world participated in the well-coordinated sessions. Among the presenters were Steinbeck scholars, graduate students, and public school teachers. The approaches taken and the perspectives shared once again demonstrate Steinbeck’s broad influence on many disciplines and aspects of life. The conference owes its success to the wonderful coordination of the Conference Steering Committee and the careful organizing by the staff of the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, especially its current director, Nickolas P. Taylor, and the Center’s past director, Paul Douglass. Mimi Gladstein, the outgoing past president of The John Steinbeck Society of America, served the Society since 2006. During her term, Mimi oversaw the operations of the Society and, at the same time, nurtured and advised young Steinbeck scholars. As she often remarks, “This is the best way to serve the community of Steinbeck scholars,” and she has served well. Thank you, Mimi. At this conference, a new leadership team was formed. Luchen Li was nominated and elected President, and Thomas Barden was elected Vice President of the Society. Richard Hart was called upon to serve as Vice President for Academic Relations. Danica Čerče will be our Vice President for International Relations. Mimi Gladstein will stay connected with the Society as President Emeritus. Barbara Heavilin will continue serving as Editor in Chief for the Steinbeck Review. Barbara and her editorial board have been working diligently to seek great submissions for the journal. Their work has been a major milestone in documenting, advancing, and distributing Steinbeck scholarship.
Considering the fact that Steinbeck studies have no boundaries, the Board deliberated over the current name of the Society and decided to change it to International Society of Steinbeck Scholars. This new name will be used in our [End Page 166] future publications and announcements. To support this change and to further engage Steinbeck scholars worldwide, we have appointed directors/coordinators in Europe, Asia, and other regions to help coordinate scholarly activities related to Steinbeck studies in their respective countries. This new leadership team will work with a mission to reach out to other academic disciplines, such as history, social and cultural studies, politics, ethics, philosophy, and environmental studies to engage individuals whose academic interest overlaps with Steinbeck scholarship. We will also assist graduate students in their endeavor to publish and build careers relevant to Steinbeck scholarship. To reach out to graduate students, Felicia Preece has been identified as the graduate student representative to serve on the Board. We will seek grant opportunities to explore approaches for enriching K-12 curriculum with Steinbeck readings. One other challenge we would like to take on is to line up Steinbeck sessions at conferences sponsored by Modern Language Association, American Literature Association, and other professional organizations. We aim at organizing the next Steinbeck conference in four to five years from now.
There are excellent resources for young Steinbeck scholars around the world. Our work, publications, and energy will reach to a broader audience of a world community. Next year is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath. Many communities, artists, and writers across the United States are organizing special events to celebrate the life and work of Steinbeck, whose stories and ideals not only belong to America but also to the world. I look forward to serving our Society with humility, teamwork, and a vision to engage the world through Steinbeck scholarship. [End Page 167]
Luchen Li serves as President of the International Society of Steinbeck Scholars. He was author, co-author, editor, and co-editor for such publications as John Steinbeck’s Global Dimensions, John Steinbeck: A Documentary Volume, Critical Companion to John Steinbeck, and numerous book chapters and articles in literary and cultural studies. Li teaches literature, communication, and global leadership. He is Associate Dean of Global Programs at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in...