2012 Texts:

  • Log From the Sea of Cortez (1951), Steinbeck
  • Cannery Row (1945) and "God in the Pipes" (unpublished), Steinbeck
  • "The Snake," "Johnny Bear," and "The Chrysanthemums" (1938) in The Long Valley), Steinbeck
  • Selected essays of Edward Ricketts

1. Who was Edward Ricketts?
Steinbeck's 1945 novel Cannery Row made a hero of Doc, who was, in life, Edward Flanders Ricketts, a marine biologist who operated a small marine biological lab in New Monterey. He was John Steinbeck's closest friend for eighteen years, and their friendship was essential to Steinbeck's thinking and his art. It was arguably the most vital connection of Steinbeck's life—fulfilling some deep psychic need more completely than any other relationship, including those with his three wives. In nearly every one of Steinbeck's novels, a male character offers to another male solace, wisdom, insight, and the "toto picture," to borrow a favorite phrase of Ed's—that male character was always modeled on Ed Ricketts holistic appreciation of life.

2. What was Ricketts's and Steinbeck's holistic philosophy?
Ricketts and Steinbeck were intellectual sparring partners, scientific investigators, soul mates, and collaborators. They discussed any and all subjects—the mathematics of music, observations of animal behavior, interpretations of modern art, the philosophy of Carl Jung. With Ricketts, Steinbeck fashioned one of the twentieth century's most incisive texts wedding scientific discovery to humanistic ideals, Sea of Cortez. To appreciate fully the friendship, shared ideals, and intellectual camaraderie of Steinbeck and Ricketts is to comprehend one of the most unusual collaborative ventures of the twentieth century—which resulted in the text that Steinbeck always said was his favorite, Sea of Cortez.

3. Where will we go to trace Steinbeck's and Ricketts's careers?
In this class, we will take several field trips. In Monterey, we will listen to a recording of "The Snake" in Ed Ricketts's lab on Cannery Row. We will see where the John Steinbeck Aquarium was to be built at Hopkins Marine Station. [Fig 9 and 10] We will walk along Cannery Row, locating sites mentioned in Steinbeck's novel. We will walk Steinbeck's Pacific Grove, see his home of the 1930s (unchanged), collect specimen in The Great Tide Pool where Ricketts and Steinbeck collected, walk on the beach at Asilomar where "The Seer" in Sweet Thursday talks to Doc. We'll look for frogs in Mac's frog pond on the Carmel River. In short, we will steep ourselves in Steinbeck's Monterey Peninsula. Time permitting, there will be a trip to Salinas to visit the National Steinbeck Center.

In 2012 we will also visit the Salinas River and working fields in the Salinas Valley, a world as environment as influential on Steinbeck as was the Monterey Peninsula and the ocean.  We'll explore the headwaters of the Salinas River on a ranch in San Luis Obispo County that remains much as it was in Steinbeck's time and probably before.

4. How will other writers contribute to an understanding of the Monterey coast and Sea of Cortez?
Robinson Jeffers wrote "the most powerful, the most challenging poetry in this generation," declared the New York Herald Tribune in 1928. Four years later, he was on the cover of Time magazine. That same year, Edward Ricketts, John and Carol Steinbeck, and Joseph Campbell poured over Jeffers's poetry. Poet of Big Sur and the wild Pacific coast, he lived in nearby Carmel.  We'll consider the holistic nature of philosophy of Jeffers's inhumanism that lies at heart of his work.

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