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Friday, September 6 • 12:00pm - 1:00pm
"We" in Sea of Cortez: Carol and John Steinbeck

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In 1940, John Steinbeck, weary after writing The Grapes of Wrath (1939), charted the purse seiner Western Flyer to sail to the Sea of Cortez to examine intertidal life. The trip was a gift to his best friend, marine biologist Edward F. Ricketts, and to himself--he declared that he would study to become a scientist. And that he did, as he notes in the book published a year later, Sea of Cortez: “Being more interested in distribution than in individuals, we saw dominant species and changing sizes groups which thrive and those which recede under varying conditions.” (51).

What I wish to explore in this presentation is the power of that "we" which includes John's wife Carol, an excellent sailor and collector, according to the captain of the boat, Tony Berry. Carol is left out of the narrative--but nor are John and Ed mentioned by name. I will discuss Sea of Cortez in the context of sea narratives, in the context of living aboard a purse seiner, and of the expedition's central aims: to explore the intertidal region in Baja.


Susan Shillinglaw

San Jose State University
For 30+ years, Susan Shillinglaw has been a Professor of English at San Jose State University, as well as Director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies. Dr. Shillinglaw has published widely on John Steinbeck, most recently A Journey into Steinbeck’s California; Carol and John Steinbeck... Read More →

Friday September 6, 2019 12:00pm - 1:00pm PDT
Explorer Stage