Phi Kappa Phi Scholar to speak about Steinbeck book

November 8, 2012 | Events, UToday, — Languages, Literature and Social Sciences, Honors
By Staff

Dr. Tom Barden with his book, “Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches From the War”

Dr. Tom Barden, who recently was selected as the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi National Scholar for 2012-2014, will talk about his book, Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches From the War, Thursday, Nov. 15, at 3 p.m. in the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections in UT’s Carlson Library.

Barden, dean of The University of Toledo Honors College, has been on UT’s faculty since 1976. He has directed the Honors College since 2006, and also serves as the general editor of The University of Toledo Press.

In addition to his national award from Phi Kappa Phi, Barden has been honored at UT with both the Outstanding Teaching Award and the Outstanding Faculty Research Award. He also received the Edith Rathbun Award for Outstanding Community Outreach and Engagement in 2010.

Steinbeck in Vietnam was published earlier this year by the University of Virginia Press. It is the first complete published collection of dispatches Steinbeck wrote as a war correspondent for Newsday. Between December 1966 and May 1967, Steinbeck reported from the combat areas of South Vietnam, and also traveled to Thailand and Laos, documenting his experience in columns for the newspaper.

“Steinbeck always wanted to be where the action was,” Barden said. “Even The Grapes of Wrath was based on journalistic fieldwork he did, spending time with and talking to the Okies in California. In World War II, he lived in Army Air Corps barracks with a crew of airmen and published an account of their training and missions titled Bombs Away. In the 1950s, he went to the Soviet Union for the U.S. State Department and filed a series of essays. So his going to Vietnam as a reporter wasn’t atypical for him.”

Barden used collections at four research libraries in order to assemble the columns, which were the last published writings of Steinbeck before his death. Barden has included extensive notes about the writings as well as essays that set the columns within the context of what was happening in the war and in the United States at the time.

His book has been widely hailed by numerous publications, and was most recently mentioned in The New York Times Book Review. Barden also has been interviewed by National Public Radio about the work.

The Phi Kappa Phi Scholar Award was established in 1974 to recognize excellence in teaching, research and public service. It is awarded every two years by the national honor society. Barden is a member of UT’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, serves on the executive committee, and is chair of the chapter’s scholarship committee.

A reception and book signing will follow Barden’s talk, and copies of Steinbeck in Vietnam will be available for purchase.

The free, public event is sponsored by the UT Chapter of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

For more information, contact Barbara Floyd, director of the Canaday Center, at 419.530.2170.

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