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John Steinbeck: the Voice of a Region, a Voice for America

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

A three-week institute for twenty-seven school teachers on John Steinbeck as a novelist, social critic, and ecologist.

This institute takes place in and around Monterey Bay, California. It offers fresh perspectives on author John Steinbeck's vision of America as influenced by his sense of place in northern California, his engagement with Mexican history and culture, his Cold War politics, and his interest in the natural environment. The project is co-directed by Susan Shillinglaw (English, San Jose State University) and William Gilly (biology, Stanford University). During week one, co-director Shillinglaw leads the group on a tour of Steinbeck-related sites in the Salinas Valley and make a presentation on regional influences in the novella Of Mice and Men. Participants also discuss Steinbeck's short stories in The Long Valley with creative writing instructor Chris Fink (Beloit College) and discuss issues of documentary realism, working class voices, and dialogic theory in relation to The Grapes of Wrath with literature professors Robert DeMott (Ohio University), Persis Karim (San Jose State University), and Mary Adler (California State University, Channel Islands), respectively. They also attend a performance of Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" by Matt Spangler and Elizabeth Barber and explore how performance techniques can be incorporated into the classroom with New York actor and presenter Tony Newfield. During week two, humanities professor Scot Guenter (San Jose State University) discusses Steinbeck's East of Eden (as well as Elia Kazan's film adaptation of the book) in the context of the Cold War. They then turn to the author's environmental vision, with a discussion of Cannery Row and associated writings by Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, Gary Snyder, and others. Historian Tim Thomas (Monterey Maritime and History Museum) gives a talk on Monterey's multi-ethnic fishing industry and leads a tour of historic sites in the area. During week three, participants continue to examine the intersection of Steinbeck's environmental interests with a discussion of his Sea of Cortez and Garrett Hardin's famous essay "The Tragedy of the Commons," followed by a chartered boat tour of the bay and an examination of marine specimens at the Hopkins Marine Station.

Faculty:  Mary Adler, Persis Karim, Robert DeMott, Chris Fink, Anthony Newfield, Matthew Spangler, Craig Strang, Tim Thomas, Bruce Robison, Scot Guenter, Pete Barraza, Nancy Harray



Dates: July 14— August 2 (3 weeks)
Director(s): Susan Shillinglaw, San Jose State University and William Gilly, Stanford University
Grantee Institutions: San Jose State University
Location: Monterey, CA

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. An NEH Summer Seminar for school teachers enables sixteen participants to explore a topic or set of readings with an expert scholar. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


Full-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one. Eligibility criteria differ significantly between NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes and NEH Landmarks Workshops.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current graduate students, who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.