Although Steinbeck's work was wildly popular in its time, he never achieved the same critical acclaim as his contemporaries Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.
The popularity of Steinbeck's work confounded the critics of his day, Wrobel said.
That may be in part because he was less concerned with literary innovation than with giving readers an honest portrayal of his subjects, he said.
Steinbeck's 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath” dealt with migrant farm workers from the southern plains who went to California looking for work in the 1930s. Although Oklahomans working in California saw Steinbeck as a sincere advocate, many critics dismissed his writing as overly sentimental or ham-handed, Wrobel said.
“For literary critics, it's bewildering,” Wrobel said. “It's like having a musical artist who you think is talentless again and again achieve massive popular acclaim.”
Kennedy, a history professor at Stanford University, will discuss the United States' role in the outcome of World War II during a noon lecture in the Oklahoma Memorial Union's Molly Shi Boren Ballroom. Kennedy won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for history for his book “Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945.”
McCullough's lecture will cap the event. McCullough will discuss President Harry Truman's life at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Molly Shi Boren Ballroom. McCullough won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for his biography “Truman” and again in 2002 for his biography “John Adams.”
For more information or to make a reservation, go to teachin.ou.edu.