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Institute 2018 - Highlights

Note: Presentations subject to change

Week One: Steinbeck and the Land (July 1-6)

The first week concentrates on the study of Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley through two seminal novels, Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Grapes of Wrath (1939), and short stories in The Long Valley (1938). 

Sunday: Introductions at 5:00 PM at Intercontinental Clement on Cannery Row
with Susan Shillinglaw and William Gilly

We begin with an afternoon greeting during which Summer Scholars can share their reasons for coming to this Institute and previous experience with Steinbeck.

Sunday evening features a sponsored opening dinner at the Intercontinental Clement, followed by a performance of one of Steinbeck’s best-known short stories, “The Chrysanthemums,” by Dr. Matt Spangler and Elizabeth Barber and by a brief discussion with the actors and director/script writer. Dr. Spangler will continue on Monday evening with a workshop on the role of performance in secondary teaching practices that will include performance pedagogy based on scholarly articles to be read before the session.

Monday: Steinbeck as Short Story Writer
with Chris Fink

Monday will focus on the creative process and Steinbeck’s short fiction of the early 1930s. Dr. Fink will discuss two of Steinbeck’s earliest, unpublished stories, “The Kittens and the Curtain” and “Fingers of Cloud.” These works, set on a ranch and Filipino work camp, respectively, will allow consideration of Steinbeck and ethnicity. Dr. Fink will then discuss The Long Valley, a collection of Steinbeck’s finest short fiction, and analyze the stories as models for the teaching of creative writing by evaluating the creative decisions that Steinbeck made.

In the afternoon, Dr. Fink and both directors will facilitate small group discussions of Steinbeck’s short stories. Of particular interest are issues of gender and the nature of the creative process.

Tuesday: Reconsidering Of Mice and Men
with Anthony Newfield

In the morning we will begin a discussion about independent projects that will be due a month after the institute ends. We encourage each NEH scholar to develop interdisciplinary approaches to teaching Steinbeck, drawing on the models presented during the institute. We devote the rest of the morning to analysis of the short stories. Dr. Shillinglaw will also introduce Of Mice and Men.

In the afternoon Dr. Shillinglaw and NY actor Anthony Newfield will lead discussion groups on Of  Mice and Men, presenting  biographical and geographical contexts for reading the book. We will follow small group discussions with a presentation by Dr. Shillinglaw on eugenics and queer theory—recent critical approaches to the work. In the evening Newfield will work with participants to explore further how performance can be incorporated into the classroom, focusing on the musical/film/play/book versions of Of Mice and Men. At 7:00 PM there will be a showing of the 1939 film, Of Mice and Men followed by a discussion of the text and film.

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

Wednesday will be devoted to a tour of the Salinas Valley led by Dr. Shillinglaw, including the Red Pony ranch and the National Steinbeck Center, with lunch at the Steinbeck house (his boyhood home). As we travel through the valley’s agricultural fields, we will introduce the complexity of California’s long dependence on migrant workers and the significance of agriculture to California’s economy. This field trip will involve easy walking over short distances on flat terrain.

After returning to Hopkins, we’ll have a Fourth of July Social where we can recap the field trip and review progress of the Institute.

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

In the morning, Dr. DeMott will introduce two ways to consider the text: its compositional history (using Working Days, Steinbeck’s published journal that he kept while writing the book) and its reliance on documentary realism of the 1930s.

At 3:30, we will engage in  small-group discussions of Grapes, facilitated by Drs. DeMott, Shillinglaw and Gilly, to consider environmental and scientific issues that the novel engages.

In the evening we consider the impact of documentary photography and film on Steinbeck’s novel—focusing on Dorothea Lange’s photographs (1935-1939) and Pare Lorentz’s The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936), a film (shown this evening) about the destructive agricultural practices that wreaked environmental devastation on the Great Plains.

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

On Friday morning, we continue with The Grapes of Wrath, offering other perspectives on this novel’s legacy. Later in the morning, Dr. Karim will consider working class voices in the novel and compare Steinbeck with other ethnic and working class writers in California. She will explore the regional voices that Steinbeck included in his fiction and analyze how these voices continue to speak to larger issues in American society.

In the afternoon, Dr. Adler will discuss dialogic theory as applied to The Grapes of Wrath and will lead a workshop on incorporating dialogic techniques in the classroom.

Saturday and Sunday – free until 5:00 PM Sunday.

On Sunday evening, Dr. Adler will extend Friday’s discussion to share dialogic approaches to teaching Grapes of Wrath, followed by small-group discussions of Grapes, led by Drs. Adler, Shillinglaw and Gilly. In this session we will consider questions about the novel that were sparked by the presentations and the varied approaches. After this session, scholars will have the opportunity to report on progress at identifying an individual project.

Week Two: East of Eden and the Monterey Coast (July 9-13)

Week two begins with Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley epic, East of Eden, and then moves on to his Monterey works as represented by Cannery Row and “The Snake.” We also introduce Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck’s marine biologist friend, and begin relating marine ecology to Steinbeck’s world-view and fiction.

Monday: East of Eden and Salinas agriculture

We begin with a discussion of East of Eden, followed by a guided tour of working agricultural fields in the Salinas Valley on Monday afternoon. In the evening Elia Kazan’s film East of Eden will be shown, with Dr. Scot Guenter giving a brief introduction to the film.

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

On Tuesday morning participants will compare book and film in small groups led by Drs. Guenter, Adler, and Shillinglaw. Dr. Guenter will then present on the book and film in the context of Cold War politics and culture.

In the afternoon, Dr. Guenter will continue discussing morality issues during the Cold War era. Following this, we will have small-group discussions of the text, engaging participants again on interdisciplinary approaches to this novel that have been presented. A key question raised by this novel is the notion of conscience and individual moral choice. The group will consider that thematic focus and whether or not Steinbeck remains concerned with the “common good.”

Wednesday: Introducing Ed Ricketts, ecology, and the sardines of Cannery Row
With Susan Shillinglaw, William Gilly and Tim Thomas

Halfway into the Institute, Drs. Shillinglaw and Gilly will give a morning presentation on Steinbeck’s relationship with marine biologist Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck’s closest friend from 1930-1948. Their friendship had a profound impact on Steinbeck’s fiction. In further discussion we will consider Ricketts’s impact on twentieth century marine ecology and his holistic approach to understanding of complex scientific issues in order to manage  marine resources in a changing world.

In the afternoon, historian Tim Thomas will give a talk on the history of Monterey’s multi-ethnic and multi-species fishing industry and then lead a tour of Cannery Row. We will walk from Cannery Row to Custom House Plaza and other historical Monterey sites, many of which are described in Cannery Row. Total walking distance will be about 3 miles with no hills.

In the evening Hopkins graduate student, Tim Frawley, will discuss his thesis research on artisanal fisheries in the Gulf of California, drawing on cultural histories of Baja California Sur that Steinbeck and Ricketts experienced in 1940. Tim will also discuss the importance of communicating science to general audiences, including the fishermen themselves.

Thursday: Considering Cannery Row and “The Snake”
with Susan Shillinglaw and Gavin Jones

In the morning, Dr. Shillinglaw will discuss Cannery Row, integrating knowledge of Ricketts’s essays and Steinbeck’s lifelong appreciation of science and holistic understanding of ecology. We will discuss Steinbeck and Ricketts’s shared belief that an intertidal community mirrors a human community and how the tide pool is the dominant metaphor in Cannery Row. Scholars will also consider the ecological focus of Cannery Row in small groups with Drs. Shillinglaw and Gilly.

In the afternoon, we will visit Ricketts’s Cannery Row laboratory, listen to a recording of Steinbeck reading “The Snake” and engage in a discussion of the story with Dr. Jones during the afternoon.

We will conclude with a late afternoon discussion of projects at Hopkins and a briefing for the intertidal field trip in the morning with Dr. Strang. We’ll end with a picnic dinner.

Friday: Observing Marine Life the Intertidal and Developing Ocean Literacy
with Craig Strang and William Gilly

At 5:30 AM, NEH Summer Scholars will be introduced to techniques of tide-pool observation and put those skills to use in the rocky intertidal zone at Hopkins Marine Station alongside Drs. Strang and Gilly. This field trip will involve careful walking of up to 100 yards on wet rocks that may be slippery, but the activity will not be strenuous. A walking stick and footwear that can get wet are recommended .

Later that morning  participants will have an opportunity to share their observations, and Dr. Strang will discuss “Essential Principles of Ocean Literacy” in conjunction with a national program that integrates standards-based environmental issues into high school classrooms..

Friday afternoon will be spent at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. NEH Scholars will view an exhibit on Steinbeck-Ricketts and a special exhibit on cephalopods with Dr. Gilly and graduate student assistants for 1hour and then take a guided behind-the-scenes tour of the facility. Following this, participants will be free to tour the public exhibits on their own or with Dr. Gilly. Scholars will be encouraged to revisit the Aquarium later in the Institute, because they will have free admission for one week.

Saturday and Sunday – free time until 5:00 pm Sunday.

On Saturday morning we will arrange for a visit to Point Lobos Reserve, a favorite spot of Steinbeck’s and a meeting of land and sea that also inspired Robinson Jeffers. Transportation will be provided for this optional outing. This activity involves walking for up to two miles on trails with some hills and should be considered mildly strenuous but not difficult. Dr. Gilly will also offer a second optional intertidal exploration for anyone interested in taking advantage of the extremely low tide (-1.54’ at 6:26 AM).

At 5:00 pm Sunday we will gather at the Olympia Lodge for an informal working group dinner where we will discuss the previous week’s activities and consider any progress on projects.

Week Three: John Steinbeck, the Sea, and Science (July 16-20)

Week three will focus on The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Steinbeck’s personal favorite, and the work described by a reviewer as containing “more of Steinbeck the man” than any of his others. We will work together to see how his expedition to the Gulf of California with Ed Ricketts in 1940 and this work of non-fiction influenced Steinbeck as a thinker and writer of fiction.

Monday: Log from the Sea of Cortez
with Susan Shillinglaw and William Gilly

In the morning, Drs. Shillinglaw and Gilly will begin in-depth discussion of the Log from the Sea of Cortez. Although it is not often taught, this book contains a treasure of important insights, and we will consider it as an important landmark in twentieth-century ecology as well as an emergent map of Steinbeck’s philosophies expressed in The Grapes of Wrath and other work.

Later in the morning we will discuss the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, because his work had a profound influence on both Ricketts and Steinbeck. In the afternoon we will visit Jeffers’s home in Carmel, Tor House. In the late afternoon, Dr. Shillinglaw will hold a group discussion on the Jeffers poem that had the greatest impact on Steinbeck’s fiction, “The Roan Stallion.”

Tuesday: Steinbeck and Ricketts’s vs Today’s Sea of Cortez
with William Gilly and Susan Shillinglaw

Dr. Gilly will present in the morning on contemporary issues relevant to The Log from the Sea of Cortez based on his 2004 retracing of the original Steinbeck-Ricketts  expedition and nearly 20 years of research there. He and Dr. Shillinglaw will also lead a discussion of Garrett Hardin’s classic essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” and more recent follow-up work in conjunction with teaching vital holistic concepts embodied in this work through literature.

In the afternoon, we will continue the discussion of Steinbeck, Ricketts, and ecology by looking at Aldo Leopold’s discussion of the land ethic. We close the day with a projects meeting.

Wednesday: Field Trip on Monterey Bay

On Wednesday morning Dr. Gilly and graduate students Tim Frawley and Elan Portner will lead a cruise on Monterey Bay, giving the scholars a feel for the 1940 experience of Ricketts and Steinbeck’s in the Sea of Cortez. We will charter a commercial vessel for the morning and observe cetaceans that typically inhabit Monterey Bay in July (humpback and blue whales, various dolphins) and a variety of birds. Scholars will carry out a plankton tow, and we will examine these intriguing creatures at Hopkins Marine Station after lunch.

The rest of Wednesday afternoon will be free for participants to continue work on projects.
In the evening, teacher facilitator Pete Barraza will discuss his approach to teaching California literature and incorporating field trips and on-site visits. He has developed a new course in California literature and he will present his program as a model for regional environmental and literary studies. 

Thursday: Projects

Summer scholars will have the opportunity to meet with Drs. Shillinglaw and Gilly throughout the day about lesson-plan projects (final versions to be submitted in final form within one month after the institute ends). At 11:00, Pete Barraza will discuss integrating popular culture and California novels, with a focus on his work with East of Eden and Gary Snyder. He will also be available to discuss projects and regional studies with NEH scholars in the early afternoon, as will be Institute Coordinator Brett Navin .  

At 3:00 Dr. Shillinglaw will offer an optional tour of the Naval Postgraduate School, formerly Hotel Del Monte (mentioned in Steinbeck’s work).

Friday: Wrap-up and Farewell

Friday morning will be devoted to small-group discussions of The Log from the “Sea of Cortez”—and tie together Steinbeck’s ideas in that book to other Institute core texts. We will also consider any questions that might remain. Friday afternoon will be free for work on projects.

On Friday evening, Drs. Shillinglaw and Gilly will host a final dinner in their home, where each scholar will present a short report on the current state of their project generated during the institute.

Participants are free to depart on Saturday morning.





Stanford University


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