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Institute 2016 - Highlights

Note: Presentations subject to change

Week One: Steinbeck and the Land, July 10-15, 2016

The first week of this Institute focuses on Steinbeck and the land, and readings include the short stores in The Long Valley, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath.

Sunday evening performance of “The Chrysanthemums,”
a Performance Workshop
with Matthew Spangler & Elizabeth Lee Barber

This presentation will feature a chamber theatre performance of John Steinbeck’s short story, “The Chrysanthemums,” followed by audience discussion with the actors and director/script writer.

Monday: Steinbeck as Short Story Writer
with Chris Fink

NEH Summer Scholars will explore the importance of short stories in The Long Valley to Steinbeck’s career as a writer. An interactive lecture will take a writer’s perspective, focusing on techniques Steinbeck first learned while practicing the short story form. Discussions will also focus on how Steinbeck benefitted from the broad and profitable American short story writer’s publishing market in the 1930’s.

Tuesday: Reconsidering Of Mice and Men

Susan Shillinglaw will give an overview of Steinbeck’s California—biographical, historical, cultural, environmental--with particular attention to the importance of place and to Steinbeck’s ecological sensibilities. In the afternoon, NEH Summer Scholars will discuss the musical “Of Mice and Men“ with actor Tony Newfield and in the evening view the 1939 film, a discussion following..

Wednesday: Tour of Salinas and the Salinas Valley
with Susan Shillinglaw

The group will tour Steinbeck’s “Valley of the World,” the Salinas Valley where he was born and grew up. Highlights are lunch at the Steinbeck house in Salinas, a tour of the National Steinbeck Center, a visit to the Red Pony Ranch, and a drive through Steinbeck’s Pastures of Heaven.

Thursday: The Grapes of Wrath: Steinbeck and his Journals
with Robert DeMott

NEH Summer Scholars will focus on the historical and personal/authorial background of The Grapes of Wrath. Through group discussion, participants will consider the relationship between sections of Grapes and Steinbeck’s self-commentary in Working Days.

In afternoon discussions with Professors Gilly, DeMott and Shillinglaw, the group will consider the ecological issues addressed in the text. That evening “The Plow that Broke the Plains,“ a documentary film by Pare Lorentz, will be shown.

Friday: Steinbeck and the Legacy of Working People’s Literature in California
with Persis Karim

This presentation/workshop highlights some of the literature by California writers that represents the experiences and sentiments of working people in this state. Examples of poetry, fiction and nonfiction (including journalistic accounts) by authors such as Steinbeck, Louis Owens, Tillie Olsen, Carlos Bulosan, Alexander Saxton and Helena Viramontes offer a perspective on a class of writers that effectively produces a culture and a literature of the working class. By looking at this writing in both its larger American, and more specifically Californian historical contexts, we see how these writers have helped shape an awareness of working people, and have also contributed to American literature as a whole.

Eliciting Classroom Voices: A Dialogic Steinbeck Curriculum With Mary Adler

As the first in a two-part workshop, participants will reconsider approaches to teaching Steinbeck through theory and research on dialogic interactions. Our ultimate questions are these: If dialogic classrooms produce higher student achievement and learning (and they do), how do we get there? Whose voices are silent—and how do we cultivate them? We'll begin with a short lecture looking closely at the work of theorist Mikhail Bakhtin and his concept of dialogic interactions, highlighting the role of discourse in learning; we'll then move into small groups to explore ways in which Steinbeck's work is particularly suited to cultivating dialogic interactions and extending them over time. At the beginning of week two, we'll think about the lessons teachers are creating with an eye toward ways to create dialogic spaces for students to respond to and honor multiple voices and points of view.

Saturday and Sunday until 5:00 free.

Week Two: East of Eden and the Monterey Coast, July 18-22, 2016

Monday: East of Eden and Salinas agriculture

Susan Shillinglaw will lead a discussion of the novel in the morning. The group will have on-site tours of Salinas Valley agriculture in the afternoon. In the evening, Elia Kazan’s East of Eden will be shown.

Tuesday: East of Eden in a Cold War context
with Scot Guenter

Dr. Scot Guenter will discuss East of Eden, book and film, in the context of Cold War politics and culture. In the late afternoon fisheries historian Tim Thomas will lead the NEH Summer Scholars on a tour of Cannery Row.

Steinbeck spent much of his childhood near the sea at his parents’ summer cottage in Pacific Grove. His “Monterey triilogy,“ Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, and Sweet Thursday, are all about communities living on the margins. We will be discussing the importance of the western “edge,“ the seacoast, and how Steinbeck’s relationship with Edward Flanders Ricketts, marine biologist, shaped his environmental vision.

Small group discussions in the afternoon with Professors Guenter, Shillinglaw, and Adler.

Wednesday: Introducing Ed Ricketts and ecology
Intertidal: 6:00 AM. Developing Ocean Literacy: Observing in the Intertidal
with William Gilly

NEH Summer Scholars will be introduced to techniques of tidepool observation and put those skills to use alongside two biologists during an early morning venture into the intertidal. Later, Dr. Strang will talk with the group about the role of science, natural history, and the ocean in literature classes, and introduce participants to the Ocean Literacy program.

Monterey Bay Aquarium tour in the afternoon.

Thursday: On Cannery Row.

Tour of Cannery Row, followed by a discussion of Edward F. Ricketts, marine biologist, and his influence on Steinbeck's life and career. Ricketts was Steinbeck's closest friend from 1930-1948. Not only does friendship become the most enduring relationship that Steinbeck repeatedly considers, but a figure resembling Ed is key to many texts. Ricketts's work will be compared with Aldo Leopold's "land ethic."

Friday: Considering Cannery Row

Professors Gilly and Shillinglaw will discuss Steinbeck and Ricketts's shared belief that an intertidal community mirrors a human community—indeed the tide pool is the dominant metaphor in Cannery Row. On Friday morning, Susan Shillinglaw will introduce the novel, integrating knowledge of Ricketts's essays and Steinbeck's lifelong interest in science. Later that morning, William Gilly will discuss a selection from Rachel Carson's Under the Sea Wind, and NEH Summer Scholars will compare the perspectives of both works. From 2-4:00 on Friday, participants will discuss Cannery Row in small groups with Drs. Shillinglaw and Gilly. In the evening, Dr. Bruce Robison, marine biologist at Monterey Bay Research Institute, will present on the study of life in the deep sea and its relationship to Steinbeck and Ricketts and Nancy Harry will discuss ideas about teaching Cannery Row.

Saturday and Sunday until 5:00 pm free.

Week Three: John Steinbeck and the Sea, July 25-29, 2016
Intertextuality: Steinbeck, Ricketts, Joseph Campbell and Robinson Jeffers

Monday: Steinbeck and Jeffers:

Each of the three towns on the Monterey Peninsula, Spanish Monterey, conservative Pacific Grove (founded as a Methodist retreat in 1872) and arty Carmel (founded as a real estate vision of natural living in 1907), shaped Steinbeck's political and social consciousness. We will visit Robinson Jeffers' Tor House in Carmel and consider the impact of Jeffers' works on Steinbeck.

Tuesday: Steinbeck and Ricketts’s Sea of Cortez

Tuesday morning is devoted to in-depth discussions of Sea of Cortez, the book that one reviewer said contained “more of Steinbeck the man“ than any other. We will consider the book as an important landmark in twentieth-century ecology.

Wednesday: All day field trip on Monterey Bay

NEH Summer Scholars will embark on a research vessel on Monterey Bay, thus giving participants something of Ricketts and Steinbeck’s experience on a purse seiner in the Sea of Cortez in 1940. Activities will include plankton tows, bottom trawl or midwater trawl and examination of the catch onboard—all under the direction of Dr. Gilly. Marine mammal observations will be carried out (humpback and blue whales, various dolphins). If Humboldt squid are in the area, we will collect them by rod-and-reel fishing. Squid will be examined on board following approaches developed in conjunction with Gilly’s Squids-4-Kids outreach program. We will present ideas for participants to partner with science teachers and take advantage of Humboldt squid specimens and lesson plans provided by Squids-4-Kids.

In the afternoon, teacher-facilitator Pete Barraza will discuss his approach to teaching California literature, a course that attracts over 250 students in several sections at Santa Monica High School. He will also discuss Steinbeck's and Gary Snyder's work.


On Thursday morning Professor Gilly will discuss his 2004 trip to the Sea of Cortez that retraced Steinbeck and Ricketts’s 1940 journey, followed by a final discussion of Sea of Cortez with participants. In an evening celebration at Ricketts’s lab on Cannery Row, participants will share their projects—lesson plans, historical research, interactive approaches to teacher; a slide show that evening will profile photographs taken by participants.


Breakout sessions and final banquet.





Stanford University


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