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  • Cited by 2
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
July 2021
Print publication year:
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Book description

John Steinbeck is a towering figure in twentieth-century American literature; yet he remains one of our least understood writers. This major reevaluation of Steinbeck by Gavin Jones uncovers a timely thinker who confronted the fate of humanity as a species facing climate change, environmental crisis, and a growing divide between the powerful and the marginalized. Driven by insatiable curiosity, Steinbeck's work crossed a variety of borders – between the United States and the Global South, between human and nonhuman lifeforms, between science and the arts, and between literature and film – to explore the transformations in consciousness necessary for our survival on a precarious planet. Always seeking new forms to express his ecological and social vision of human interconnectedness and vulnerability, Steinbeck is a writer of urgent concern for the twenty-first century, even as he was haunted by the legacies of racism and injustice in the American West.


‘No American writer is in greater need of reassessment than John Steinbeck. Widely read and as widely held in critical disrepute, Steinbeck has at last been rescued by Gavin Jones, whose deep and exacting scholarship is matched by his compassion and an eagerness to explore the connective tissues in Steinbeck's work. A deft and dazzling study of a complex and misunderstood writer's emergence – a term Steinbeck would appreciate – a half century after his passing.'

William Souder - author of Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck (W. W. Norton, 2020)

‘Reclaiming John Steinbeck … introduces a whole new set of concepts not typically associated with this author – from marine life to animal life, from disability to global ecological crisis – turning Steinbeck into a thinker who is urgently relevant to contemporary ethical and philosophical debates, and transforming this book from a monograph to a rich meditation on some of our current concerns. This is a wonderful achievement.'

Branka Arsić - Charles and Lynn Zhang Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

‘Jones's crystalline prose guides readers lucidly through Steinbeck's complex engagements with nature and with science. Highly recommended for readers interested in the dynamics of narrative in the context of race relations and changing ecological conditions.'

Ursula K. Heise - Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies, UCLA, and co-founder of the Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies

‘Consistently fascinating and original … A book for anyone wishing to seriously engage with one of the twentieth century’s most beloved, perplexing and underappreciated writers.’

Susan Shillinglaw Source: Times Literary Supplement

‘Careful, balanced, and well written, Jones’s book is a pleasure to read … Highly recommended.’

B. Diemert Source: Choice Magazine

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