David M. Wrobel is a historian of American thought and culture and the American West. Dean of arts and sciences and at the University of Oklahoma, he also holds the Merrick Chair in Western History and the David L. Boren Professorship there and has been engaged in a wide range of partnerships with K-12 educators over the years. He is the author of The West and America, 1890–1950: A History (2017), Global West, American Frontier: Travel, Empire, and Exceptionalism, from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression (2013), winner of the Western Heritage Award; Promised Lands: Promotion, Memory, and the Creation of the American West (2002); and The End of American Exceptionalism: Frontier Anxiety from the Old West to the New Deal (1993). He is currently working on "John Steinbeck's America: From the Great Depression to the Great Society." He is a past president of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association as well as of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society, and current president of the Western History Association.
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.