Steinbeck's To a God Unknown includes a provocative passage in which the "brain of the world" is imagined sitting on a high peak overlooking valleys filled with farms and houses. In this article, Lowell Wyse builds upon this image to analyze an underappreciated aspect of Steinbeck's environmental imagination: spatiality and geography. Through an examination of scenes in To a God Unknown and East of Eden, this article shows how an interpretive focus on the geographical construct of the watershed highlights the author's understanding of spatiality as a key component of a more holistic approach to representing place. In addition to placing these novels within the Salinas Watershed, Steinbeck portrays human settlement there as both an ongoing environmental negotiation and a set of spatial practices revolving around the crucial problem of water access. From cartographical and historical perspectives to headwaters and dowsing rods, Steinbeck creates a sense of place as geographically connected and dynamically alive, with water as the unifying element.


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pp. 156-173
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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