Event—Adult Education

Reading American Classics: The Grapes of Wrath

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Read and explore the legacy of a masterpiece from a time of economic upheaval and environmental catastrophe.

First-edition dust jacket cover of The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by the American author John Steinbeck. Jacket design by Elmer Hader. Source: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Class Description

In an America politically divided, in a time of economic upheaval and environmental catastrophe, stories were told to make sense of the times. One of the greatest such stories (of its day and ours) is John Steinbeck's 1939 masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath. The story of the Joad family and their migration down the Mother Road from Dust Bowl Oklahoma to the purported promised land of California spoke to readers and to other artists, then and now.

In this class, we will discuss the novel and the John Ford film version, as well as musical adaptations by artists from Woody Guthrie to Bruce Springsteen and Rage Against the Machine. We will also read a long-forgotten novel, Sonara Babb’s Whose Names are Unknown, written by the woman whose research into the migrant camps of California was (without her knowledge or consent) shared with Steinbeck.

Bill Savage, Professor of Instruction in the Department of English at Northwestern University, has been teaching seminars at the Newberry Library since 1992.

Materials List


First Reading:

  • No first reading assignment

Cost and Registration

This class is full, but you can still register for the waitlist on Learning Stream.

Six sessions, $235 ($210 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.

Register for Waitlist

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