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  • Steinbeck Studies:A Field Turned from Wild to Fertile
  • Luchen Li (bio)

The field of Steinbeck studies has indeed established itself as a classic with the public, yet ever new as this author still addresses issues of the day. Although the question of Steinbeck's status in ivory tower universities may still invite controversy, there are always Steinbeckian topics of continuing interest to scholars and readers that are being discussed in the United States as well as around the world. The International Society of Steinbeck Scholars amasses a group of Steinbeck devotees and scholars, who dedicate much of their academic and professional careers to promoting this author's works through publications, teaching, conferences, and community events. Although it is not possible to document the success of each work, it is encouraging to summarize a few of the academic and public accomplishments that are related to our society.

The past year saw two notable English publications by members of the Society: Barbara Heavilin's Critical Insights: Of Mice and Men (Salem Press, 2017) and Danica Čerče's John Steinbeck in East European Translation (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017). Heavilin's Critical Insights provides a comprehensive collection of in-depth critical discussions of Of Mice and Men, offering fresh perspectives on the widely read novella. Recently, she embarked on a new project to work on a Steinbeck bibliographical essay for Oxford University Press. Danica Čerče completed the first book ever published that collects and reviews Steinbeck's works in translation in Eastern Europe, and her John Steinbeck in East European Translation serves as a political barometer of the reactions to Steinbeck's works as they were "allowed" to be translated during the Cold War era. These works together remind readers that interpretations and translations can be dictated by ideology and political climate that affects the literary reputation of Steinbeck's works, inside as well as outside the United [End Page 108] States. Such seemingly "irrelevant" factors continue to define and change the overall contour of Steinbeck's literary legacy.

Steinbeck Review continues to publish high-quality articles, intercalary essays, and reviews that offer refreshing perspectives. For instance, Chaker Mohamed Ben Ali and Hachemi Aboubou offer an Islamic perspective on The Grapes of Wrath, arguing that Steinbeck integrated Islamic elements into a text which for decades has been believed to contain rich Christian references. Editor in chief Barbara Heavilin and executive editor Nick Taylor, together with a team of associate editors, assistant editor, book review editor, archivist, and editorial board, are doing a tremendous job in seeking new contributions and maintaining the scholarly character of our publication. The journal recently received the honor of being included in Scopus, the largest international abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature.

In May 2017, the Society successfully organized two sessions at the American Literature Association conference hosted in Boston. Chaired by Luchen Li, the session titled "Revisiting Steinbeck's Early Novels: To a God Unknown and Of Mice and Men" included Mimi Gladstein, Lori Whitaker, Ryan Slesinger, and Bill Lancaster, who presented fresh views on the two early novels. Whitaker gave a voice to Curley's wife by having her tell the story of what happens on the ranch from her own point of view. The second Steinbeck session at the ALA conference, titled "Steinbeck and America's Foreign Wars" and chaired by Mimi Gladstein, featured Thomas Barden, Douglas Dowland, and Christian Gallichio, whose presentations discussed race and racism in Lifeboat, Steinbeck in Vietnam, and the prewar and postwar structural differences of Steinbeck's writings.

As the Society has been making endeavors to collaborate with other organizations, Nick Taylor led participation in a 2017 conference titled "Beyond Tomorrow: Arts, Culture, Community, and the Future of Civilization," organized by the FDR Foundation. In a collaborative presentation with Cynthia Koch and Benjamin Juarez, Taylor built a broader context with "Envisioning New Americas" to discuss "how the Roosevelts, John Steinbeck, and Mexico's Nationalism Arts Movement created a new vision for global understanding."

The John Steinbeck Society of Japan hosted its fortieth annual Steinbeck conference in May 2016 and published the fortieth volume of Steinbeck Studies in May 2017. Critical essays such as Professor's Yutaka...


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