John Steinbeck’s America, II: Steinbeck and War, from World War II to Vietnam

'The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.' - Steinbeck, 1962.

Lecture Description

John Steinbeck was the first American writer of note to speak out against the policy of internment and relocation of Japanese and Japanese Americans on the West Coast. He served as a propagandist for the U.S government during World War II (while simultaneously begin investigated by the government for his presumed radicalism during the Depression years), and as a war correspondent, in London, North Africa, and Italy in 1943. He wrote memorable accounts of the soldier and civilian experiences that were syndicated across the country. In 1947, he traveled to the Soviet Union and wrote about the lives of ordinary people in the aftermath of war and destruction. A generation later, in the winter of 1966-67, Steinbeck traveled to Vietnam as a war correspondent and offered a controversial series of articles about the conflict. This image-heavy PowerPoint lecture examines this lesser known, yet highly influential phase of Steinbeck’s life and career, when he worked hard to uphold both the “ancient commission of the writer” and his commitment to his country during wartime.


Vietnam War World War II

ALL TOPICS & TITLES: Go back to all topics and titles.

More Distinguished Lectureship Program Resources