John Steinbeck’s America, I: The Great Depression Years

'I'm trying to write history while it is happening and I don't want to be wrong,' -- Steinbeck, 1938.

Lecture Description

Writing to a friend in 1938 about the novel he was writing, Steinbeck proclaimed “I’m trying to write history while it is happening and I don’t want to be wrong.” This image-rich PowerPoint lecture examines Steinbeck’s journey from his initial “strike novel,” In Dubious Battle (1936) to his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and the controversies that surrounded the novel and John Ford’s 1940 film adaptation. The talk includes coverage of Steinbeck’s fieldwork, and the photographers (including Dorothea Lange, Horace Bristol, and Russell Lee) who helped inform the public of the plight of migrant families in California. “John Steinbeck’s America” emphasizes the conviction of a writer in drawing the nation’s attention to the plight of migrant families and the contemporary lessons we can learn from his impassioned advocacy.


Great Depression Interwar (1918-1941)

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