As part of the Bill Lane Center for the American West's Winter Seminar series, a talk by the visiting researcher and poet Kevin Hearle. Lunch will be provided. Attendees are asked to please RSVP by Monday, March 4 using the link above.
A nuanced understanding of John Steinbeck's views on, and critiques of, race in the 20th-century United States, requires an examination of what he was taught out race as a boy and as a young man. The Stanford University he entered as a 17-year-old freshman in 1919 was a hotbed of competing constructions of race, and it remained so during the six years of his intermittent enrollment. In the classroom there was eugenics. In housing there was segregation. In athletics there was a refusal to compete against teams with non-white competitors. And on the Row, evidence suggests there was KKK organizing. In light of this context, it is instructive to consider the young Steinbeck's attempt to critique the social construction of race at Stanford by bringing a Chinese-American woman to a formal dance.
Kevin Hearle was the revision editor for the 2nd edition of The Grapes of Wrath: Text and Criticism (New York: Viking, 1997), co-editor of Beyond Boundaries: Rereading John Steinbeck (Tuscaloosa: U Alabama P, 2002), and the editor of The Essential Mary Austin (Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2006). He has been a founding member of the editorial boards of The Steinbeck Newsletter, Steinbeck Studies and The Steinbeck Review, and the recipient of the Burkhardt Award from Ball State University as the Outstanding Steinbeck Scholar of 2005.
Building on his previously published essays on miscegenation in The Pastures of Heaven and on eugenics in The Grapes of Wrath and Their Blood Is Strong, Kevin is writing a book manuscript with the working title Of Race and Men: Race, Ethnicity and Eugenics in the Life and Works of John Steinbeck.
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