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Reclaiming John Steinbeck


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; Acknowledgments; Introduction: Loving and Hating Steinbeck; 1. Short Stories in School and Lab:'Tularecito' and 'The Snake'; 2. Drought, Climate, and Race in the West: To a God Unknown; 3. Race and Revision: 'The Vigilante' and 'Johnny Bear'; 4. Becoming Animal: Theories of Mind in The Red Pony; 5. What Is It Like to Be a Plant?: 'The Chrysanthemums' and 'The White Quail'; 6. On Not Being a Modernist: Disability and Performance in Of Mice and Men; 7. Emergence and Failure: The Middleness of The Grapes of Wrath; 8. Borderlands: Extinction and the New World Outlook in Sea of Cortez; 9. Mexican Revolutions: The Forgotten Village, The Pearl, and the Global South; Epilogue: The Aftertaste of Cannery Row; Notes; Index.

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A reevaluation of John Steinbeck exploring his timely interests in climate change, ecology, and social injustice.

About the Author

Gavin Jones is the Frederick P. Rehmus Family Professor of the Humanities at Stanford University, where he has taught American literature since 1999. He is the author of Strange Talk: The Politics of Dialect Literature in Gilded Age America (University of California Press, 1999), American Hungers: The Problem of Poverty in US Literature, 1840-1945 (Princeton University Press, 2008), and Failure and the American Writer: A Literary History (Cambridge University Press, 2014).


'No American writer is in greater need of reassessment than John Steinbeck. Widely read and as widely held in critical disrepute, Steinbeck has at last been rescued by Gavin Jones, whose deep and exacting scholarship is matched by his compassion and an eagerness to explore the connective tissues in Steinbeck's work. A deft and dazzling study of a complex and misunderstood writer's emergence – a term Steinbeck would appreciate – a half century after his passing.' William Souder, author of Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck (W. W. Norton, 2020)

'Reclaiming John Steinbeck … introduces a whole new set of concepts not typically associated with this author – from marine life to animal life, from disability to global ecological crisis – turning Steinbeck into a thinker who is urgently relevant to contemporary ethical and philosophical debates, and transforming this book from a monograph to a rich meditation on some of our current concerns. This is a wonderful achievement.' Branka Arsić, Charles and Lynn Zhang Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

'Jones's crystalline prose guides readers lucidly through Steinbeck's complex engagements with nature and with science. Highly recommended for readers interested in the dynamics of narrative in the context of race relations and changing ecological conditions.' Ursula K. Heise, Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies, UCLA, and co-founder of the Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies

'Consistently fascinating and original … A book for anyone wishing to seriously engage with one of the twentieth century's most beloved, perplexing and underappreciated writers.' Susan Shillinglaw, Times Literary Supplement

'Careful, balanced, and well written, Jones's book is a pleasure to read … Highly recommended.' B. Diemert, Choice Magazine

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