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Though he was a recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature, American novelist John Steinbeck (1902–1968) has frequently been censored. Even in the twenty-first century, nearly ninety years after his work first appeared in print, Steinbeck’s novels, stories, and plays still generate controversy: his 1937 book Of Mice and Men was banned in some Mississippi schools in 2002, and as recently as 2009, he made the American Library Association’s annual list of most frequently challenged authors.

A Political Companion to John Steinbeck examines the most contentious political aspects of the author’s body of work, from his early exploration of social justice and political authority during the Great Depression to his later positions regarding domestic and international threats to American policies. Featuring contemporaneous and present-day interpretations of his novels and essays by historians, literary scholars, and political theorists, this book covers the spectrum of Steinbeck’s writing, exploring everything from his place in American political culture to his seeming betrayal of his leftist principles in later years.

Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh is professor of political science at the University of Connecticut. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Social Movements in Politics: A Comparative Study.

Simon Stow is associate professor in the Department of Government at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Republic of Readers? The Literary Turn in Political Thought and Analysis.

The editors are to be congratulated for assembling a political companion to John Steinbeck that is at once biographically and historically informative, interdisciplinary in its attentions, and accessibly written all the way through. -- Susan McWilliams -- Pomona College

Do you think you know John Steinbeck? You might have to think again. Stow and Zirakzadeh have put together a superb volume of essays on Steinbeck’s astounding body of work: novels, plays, journalism, screenplays, wartime journalism, travel writing, and more. The essays work brilliantly together, something many edited volumes cannot claim. Steinbeck engaged America in all its tragic complexity and came away a thoroughly ambivalent American. Readers of this indispensable volume are likely to find themselves in a similarly disconcerting position—and thankful for it. -- Steven Johnston, Neal A. Maxwell Chair in Political Theory, Public Policy, and Public Service -- University of Utah

This volume of essays on John Steinbeck, like the wonderful Kentucky volumes on Thoreau, Whitman, and Melville, offers finely crafted essays that explore the relationship between the political and the literary in diverse ways. These compelling essays assess the motivations and ambiguities in his engagement with politics and nationhood, and trace how that engagement is transfigured as literary art. But this volume is notable for two reasons. Obviously, essays about Steinbeck are especially timely now, as we face a time of economic crisis when suffering and inequality remain mostly invisible, when the supremacy of market values seems incontestable, and when alternatives are widely ridiculed and demonized. But also, because Steinbeck addressed his time by political activism, and because of his enormous and continuing influence in popular culture—from fifth grade curriculums to Bruce Springstein—the essays in this volume range more widely than other Kentucky volumes, and that is a welcome development in political theory. -- George Shulman -- New York University-Gallatin

The collection is well conceived and well executed. It deserves a place in every city and university library in the US. [. . .] Highly recommended. -- Choice

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






John Steinbeck, Political views, Social views, Politics, Literature, United States


Literature in English, North America


Edited by Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh and Simon Stow with contributions by Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh, Zoe Trodd, Donna Kornhaber, Adrienne Akins, Charles Williams, Michael Gibbons, Roxanne Harde, James R. Swensen, Marijane Osborn, Lauren Onkey, Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh, Mimi R. Gladstein, James H. Meredith, Robert S. Hughes, and Simon Stow.

A Political Companion to John Steinbeck
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