Select Steinbeck Research Bibliography
Partially Annotated A through L
- Astro, Richard. John Steinbeck and Edward F.
Ricketts: The Shaping of a Novelist. Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota P.,
Astro's book remains the standard exploration of the
intellectual aspects of the relationship between these two men and still
the most detailed analysis of the biological basis of Steinbeck's
philosophy of nonteleologism. Astro traces the origins of Steinbeck's
point of view in the reading Ricketts led him to, particularly the work of
John Elof Boodin and William Emerson Ritter.
- Astro, Richard and Tetsumaro Hayashi, eds. Steinbeck: The Man
and His Work. Corvallis: Oregon State U. P., 1971.
The published proceedings of the 1970 Steinbeck
Conference at Oregon State University, including essays by such eminent
Steinbeck scholars as Tetsumaro Hayashi, Richard Astro, John Ditsky, Peter Lisca,
Charles R. Metzger, and Robert DeMott.
- Beach, Warren Joseph. "John Steinbeck: Art and
Propaganda." American Fiction 1920-1940. 327-347. New York:
Russell & Russell, 1960.
Heavy on plot summary, Beach's analysis
nevertheless concludes that while propagandistic to an extent, Steinbeck's
work, particularly The Grapes of Wrath, by dealing with universal
themes and relying on standard formalist techniques, qualifies as
Beck, Warren. "On John Steinbeck." Talks With
Authors. 56-72. Ed. Charles F. Madden. Carbondale: Southern
Illinois U.P., 1968.
Beegel, Susan F., Susan Shillinglaw, and Wesley N. Tiffney,
Jr., eds. Steinbeck and the Environment: Interdisciplinary
Approaches. Tuscaloosa: U. of Alabama P., 1997.
Benson, Jackson J. Looking for Steinbeck's Ghost.
Norman: U. of Oklahoma P., 1988.
Primarily an account of the research behind his
mammoth 1984 Steinbeck biography, nevertheless, it helps those seeking
familiarity with Steinbeck's circle of acquaintances.
----- The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer.
New York: Viking, 1984.
Still the definitive Steinbeck biography and
likely to remain so, if only due its lengthy 1000+ pages. Primarily
straightforward biographical information--look to Benson's essays
elsewhere for more critical insight. The index is sparse.
Blake, Nelson Manfred. "The Lost Paradise." Novelists'
America: Fiction as History, 1910-1940. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse U.
P., 1969, 133-162.
Blake's book should interest more students of
history than students of literature as he mines the work of popular
novelists for historical and sociological nuggets: "...the disciplined
creations of the novelist have a much higher component of
reality...[especially regarding] works that are realistic in
intention...." After a brief synopsis of Steinbeck's life, the chapter
"The Lost Paradise" uses Steinbeck's California novels to trace (1) the
lost world of independent farmers, (2) the Dust Bowl, (3) the internal
migration the Dust Bowl produced, (4) the effects of industrialized
farming, and (5) the reaction of Oklahoman and Californian officials to
The Grapes of Wrath.
Bluefarb, Sam. "The Joads: Flight into the Social Soul."
The Escape Motif in the American Novel: Mark Twain to Richard
Wright. Ohio State U.P., 1972; 93-112.
Describing The Grapes of Wrath as an
escape novel not unlike Huckleberry Finn, Bluefarb distinguishes
Steinbeck's escape motif from others as being unsought and reluctantly
undertaken. Although Bluefarb acknowledges the elements of Emersonian
transcendentalism present in the novel, he suggests that the characters,
particularly Tom Joad and Jim Casy, are escaping not into the Oversoul by
virtue of a spiritual transfiguration, but rather into a Social Soul by
virtue of their expanded social consciences.
Burress, Lee. "The Grapes of Wrath: Preserving Its
Place in the Curriculum." Censored Books: Critical Viewpoints.
Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1993, 278-287.
A rather pedestrian summation of Peter Lisca's
formalistic analysis of The Grapes of Wrath with undue emphasis
on the theistic and non-collectivist nature of the novel. Burress tries
to de-radicalize the novel to prove it safe for public school curricula.
Oddly, rather than questioning the rationale of book banning, he merely
protests the rationale behind banning this particular book, and therefore
implicitly condones censorship on general principles.
Coers, Donald V. John Steinbeck as Propagandist:
The Moon Is Down Goes to War. Tuscaloosa: U. of
Alabama P., 1991.
Re-examining the dismissive reviews of The
Moon is Down by authors and critics like James Thurber, Coers tries
to explain why occupied Europe received and reviewed the book so well
while the contemporaneous American response viewed the book as poor
propagandist rant. Reinforces Steinbeck's connection with "the
downtrodden" and "the underdog."
Coers, Donald V., Paul D. Ruffin, and Robert J. DeMott, eds.
After The Grapes of Wrath: Essays on John Steinbeck in Honor
of Tetsumaro Hayashi. Athens: Ohio U. P., 1995.
Cook, Sylvia Jenkins. "Steinbeck, the People, and the
Party." American Fiction: 1914-1945. Harold Bloom, ed. New
York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987; 347-359.
Cook explores the "gradual and logical evolution
of the social metaphors in which Steinbeck embodied his biological
interests." She maintains that Steinbeck's apparent narrative disinterest
in examining "group-man" in the context of the Communist Party in In
Dubious Battle gave way to a passionate interest in the fate of the
group as personified by the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath. In
part, Steinbeck's movement from disinterest to interest owes to his
distance from the New York intelligentsia and the "literary class wars"
and his first-hand observation of the effects of the Depression and the
----- "Steinbeck's Poor in Prosperity and Adversity."
The Steinbeck Question: New Essays in Criticism. Donald R. Noble,
ed. Troy, N.Y.: Whitson Publishing Co., 1993.
DeMott, Robert. Steinbeck's Reading: A Catalogue of
Books Owned and Borrowed. New York: Garland Publishing, 1984.
A meticulously annotated bibliographical tool
which strives to clarify what books Steinbeck owned and which he read,
including any remarks he made in his oeuvre regarding particular
texts, and including books from Edward F. Rickett's library which
Steinbeck likely read. Comprehensive and invaluable for serious Steinbeck
----- Steinbeck's Typewriter: Essays on His
Art. Troy, NY: Whitson Publishing, 1996.
----- ed. Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes
of Wrath. New York: Viking, 1989.
A less artful, and perhaps then more
revealing, documentation of Steinbeck's "warm-up" thoughts than his
Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. It
emphasizes his physical and mental labor over the craft and the aesthetics
of his writing through its seemingly random and telegraphic style.
Ditsky, Johm. John Steinbeck: Life, Work, and
Criticism. Fredericton, N.B.: York P., 1985.
Donohue, Agnes McNeill, ed. A Casebook on The Grapes
of Wrath. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1968.
Enea, Sparky. With Steinbeck in the Sea of Cortez.
Los Osos, CA: Sand River P., 1991.
Enea's recounting of the famous John Steinbeck/Ed
Ricketts specimen-collecting trip to the Sea of Cortez makes a fine
companion to Steinbeck's Log From the Sea of Cortez. Enea served
as one of the crew on their boat, the Western Flyer. Primarily
anecdotal, Enea's account provides interesting insights into the
characters of Steinbeck and Ricketts, as well as a glimpse into the
character and history of Cannery Row. Steinbeck scholars should take note
of what Enea's account reveals about how Steinbeck collected information,
and how he absorbed and adopted materials, especially oral
Etheridge, Charles Larimo. "Dos Passos, Steinbeck, Faulkner,
and the Narrative of the Thirties." Dissertation Abstracts
International. Ann Arbor, MI: 1990 March, 50:9, 2895A.
Evans, Thomas G. "Impersonal Dilemmas: The Collision of
Modernist and Popular Traditions in Two Political Novels, The Grapes
of Wrath and Ragtime." South Atlantic Review.
1987 Jan., 52:1, 71-85.
Evans argues that these two political novels
contain the "aesthetic values of literary modernism," specifically
subjectivism and self-expression, and the conventions of the popular
novel, creating an "open-endedness" and "dynamism" in them. Regarding
The Grapes of Wrath, Evans credits Steinbeck with using these two
rhetorical formulae to "outrage the genre ending" of the popular
Fensch, Thomas, ed. Conversations with John Steinbeck.
Jackson: U.P. of Mississippi, 1988.
Part of Ole Miss's ongoing series of collected
contemporary responses to twentieth-century American authors. Traces
Steinbeck's career through a thirty-year paper trail of journalism. While
Steinbeck often felt kinder toward regular journalists than literary
critics, per se, readers should still exercise caution when he
talks about himself or his work and make sure other sources, especially
the primary texts, bear him out.
----- Steinbeck and Covici: The Story of a
Friendship. Middlebury, VT: Paul S. Eriksson, Publisher, 1979.
Primarily a collection of correspondence between
the aforementioned author and his editor, Fensch's book, while useful to
some extent in focusing on this epistolary relationship among the bulk of
Steinbeck's correspondence, nevertheless seems cobbled together with
little but superficial speculation or insight into their working
----- Top Secret: The FBI Files on John Steinbeck. Santa Teresa, NM: New Century Books, 2002.
Collection of F.B.I. documents concerning Steinbeck and released
through the The Freedom of Information Act. Interesting perspective
on the thoroughness bordering on paranoia that characterized J. Edgar
Hoover's F.B.I. Although the bureaucratic memoranda grow
increasingly redundant over the decades, they offer some political and
historical context for the author's work and an occasional insight into
his personality. The editorial commentary is often confusingly
difficult to distinguish typographically from the documents it frames.
French, Warren. John Steinbeck. New York: Grossett &
One of the key early works of Steinbeck
scholarship by one of the premier Steinbeck scholars. Like most Steinbeck
scholarship of the sixties and seventies, French's work seems out to
exonerate Steinbeck and refute political readings of his work, which was a
necessary project nearly forty years ago. Now primarily of interest to
historians of Steinbeck scholarship, for French's more recent account of
Steinbeck and his work, see John Steinbeck's Fiction
----- "John Steinbeck." The Politics of
Twentieth-Century Novelists. George A. Panichas, ed. New York:
Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1971. 296-306.
A generally well argued case which reads
Steinbeck as an apolitical author, French's essay posits Steinbeck as a
latter-day agrarian and Stevenson Democratic, part of that "cautiously
liberal segment of the American electorate." Steinbeck was more involved
in the Roosevelt administration than French claims, but, indeed he was
less publically active than many other liberal artists of his generation.
However, French errs when he counts too much on Doc Burton's views in
In Dubious Battle to represent Steinbeck's views.
----- John Steinbeck's Fiction Revisited. New York:
Twayne Publishers, 1994.
Of particular interest in this volume, French's
chapter on Steinbeck as a modernist draws attention to his experiments in
style and voice, and adds to the argument against reading Steinbeck as a
conventional realist or naturalist author.
----- The Social Novel at the End of An Era.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois U.P., 1966.
French's comments on Steinbeck and his work in
this book reflects that effort thirty years ago to discount overt
political readings, particularly politically liberal readings, of
Steinbeck's work. His remarks about Steinbeck's transcendentalism and
conservatism, while interesting, seem dated and wishful.
Frohock, W.M. "John Steinbeck: The Utility of Wrath."
The Novel of Violence in America. Southern Methodist U.P., 1950.
One of the more interesting, and fairer,
formalist assessments of Steinbeck's major works, Frohock's essay
estimates The Grapes of Wrath and In Dubious Battle as
the best of Steinbeck's works, although (and this was the standard
criticism of the time) sentimentality occasionally marred the former
novel. Frohock theorizes that writers like Steinbeck needed wrath or
violence as the unifying force in their otherwise episodic
Gannett, Lewis. John Steinbeck: Personal and
Bibliographical Notes. New York: Viking, 1939.
While Gannett often ventures into sentimental
effusion, nevertheless, most of his biographical references seem accurate.
The story of Steinbeck traveling the road with the Okies and working with
them side-by-side, however, is mostly apocryphal. Gannett reviewed books
for the New York Herald Tribune.
Geismar, Maxwell. "John Steinbeck: Of Wrath or Joy."
Writers in Crisis: The American Novel, 1925-1940. 239-270. New
York: E.P. Dutton, 1971.
Gladstein, Mimi Reisel. "America and Americans: The
Arthurian Consummation." After The Grapes of Wrath: Essays on
John Steinbeck in Honor of Tetsumaro Hayashi. Athens: Ohio U.P.,
Gladstein remarks on the themes of loss and
moral uncertainty that pervade Steinbeck's late Arthurian work,
his late fiction, and America and Americans, whose elegiac mood
Steinbeck particularly uses to explore the paradoxes between the "American
Dream" and the "American psyche."
----- The Indestructible Woman in
Faulkner, Hemingway, and Steinbeck. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press,
Hadella, Charlotte Cook. Of Mice and Men: A Kinship of
Powerlessness. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1995.
Hayashi, Tetsumaro, ed. Steinbeck's Literary Dimension:
A Guide to Comparative Studies. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press,
----- ed. John Steinbeck: The Years of Greatness,
1936-1939. Tuscaloosa: U. of Alabama P., 1993.
----- and Beverly K. Simpson, eds. and comps. John
Steinbeck: Dissertation Abstracts and Research Opportunities.
Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow P., 1994.
Heavilin, Barbara, ed. The Critical Response to John
Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Westport, CT: Greenwood P., 2000.
A collection of critical essays, spanning sixty years, on
Steinbeck's premier novel by prominent Steinbeck scholars.
Hughes, R. S. Beyond The Red Pony: A
Reader's Companion to Steinbeck's Complete Short Stories. Metuchen,
N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1987.
Ingram, Forrest L. "John Steinbeck: The Pastures of
Heaven." Representative Short Story Cycles of the Twentieth
Century: Studies in a Literary Genre. Paris: Mouton & Co., 1971:
Jain, Sunita. John Steinbeck's Concept of Man. New
Delhi: New Statesman Publishing Company, 1979.
Chronologically examining select Steinbeck
texts, Jain argues that Steinbeck develops a view of man as a creature
with a "dual existence as an individual and as a group animal." In early
novels like To a God Unknown, Steinbeck's protagonists cannot
rise above their individuality. Whereas, Jain claims, in novels like
In Dubious Battle and Of Mice and Men, the cruelty of
the group destroys the individual. The protagonists of novels like
The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, however, manage
eventually to balance their dual natures and ultimately attain dignity.
Jain's thesis seems eminently more plausible than any which might maintain
that Steinbeck advocates either individuality or communalism but not both.
More textual evidence might be brought forward than Jain presents,
Kennedy, John S. "John Steinbeck: Life Affirmed and
Dissolved." Fifty Years of the American Novel: A Christian
Appraisal. 217-236. Ed. Harold C. Gardiner. New York: Scribner's,
Levant, Howard. The Novels of John Steinbeck: A Critical
Study. U. of Missouri P., 1974.
Lewis, Cliff and Carroll Britch, eds. Rediscovering
Steinbeck: Revisionist Views of His Art, Politics and Intellect.
Studies in American Literature 3. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen P.,
Lisca, Peter. John Steinbeck: Nature and Myth. New
York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1978.