It is an honor for a graduate student to present research on an international forum. For an upcoming conference on writer John Steinbeck, The University of Toledo will send an unprecedented six students.The students will travel to San Jose State University in California, where they will each give a 25-minute presentation on aspects of the author and his works.
The conference, “Steinbeck and the Politics of Crisis: Ethics, Society and Ecology,” will take place Wednesday through Friday, May 1-3, and will be presented by the John Steinbeck Society of America and sponsored by the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.
“I think it’s a special gift that so many students are coming from a single university,” said Nick Taylor, director of the Steinbeck Center. “We had paper proposals from all over the world, so the students were competing with scholars from India, Japan, Europe. One of our goals with this conference was to regenerate the ranks of Steinbeck scholarship, and thanks to Tom Barden, we are well on our way.”
Each student is part of the class John Steinbeck, Writer, which is taught by Dr. Tom Barden, UT professor of English. Last year, Barden published Steinbeck in Vietnam, a complete collection of the dispatches the American novelist wrote as a war correspondent for Newsday magazine.
“I’m very proud of the students, and I’m sure it’ll be a fun and great experience to share with them,” said Barden, who also will present at the conference.
The students, all pursuing master of arts degrees, are:
• Laura Delucia, a second-year grad student studying English literature from Ottawa, Ohio;
• Zachary Fishel, a second-year grad student studying literature from Janesville, Pa.;
• David Hartwig, a first-year grad student studying English literature from New Bremen, Ohio;
• Felicia Preece, a second-year grad student studying modern American literature, American realism/naturalism from Eastpointe, Mich.;
• Jamie Renda, a first-year grad student studying English from Waterville, Ohio; and
• Juliana Restivo, a first-year grad student studying literature from Toledo.
“Being selected feels great. It’s really heartening to feel like your literary interests and academic voice are recognized and seen as important to the goals of literary study,” said Delucia, who will present her research on the use of automobiles in The Grapes of Wrath. “As an English literature graduate student, and as a teacher in training, being selected to present at the conference gives me, professionally speaking, a better sense of direction as to the kinds of doors my degree opens.”
The conference will be held in conjunction with the 33rd Annual Steinbeck Festival, which is hosted by the National Steinbeck Center. The festival will take place Friday through Sunday, May 3-5, in Salinas, Calif., the birthplace and childhood home of Steinbeck.