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Summer reading of 'The Grapes of Wrath' culminates in campus events

Some 3,500 incoming Cornell freshmen and new transfer students will discuss their summer reading assignment -- John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" -- at campus events Aug. 23-24.

The novel, published in 1939 and considered Steinbeck's finest and most famous piece of fiction, was chosen in the spring for Cornell's ninth annual New Student Reading Project, as "an extraordinarily rich account of major economic and social upheaval during a pivotal era in American history," Michele Moody-Adams, then-Cornell vice provost for undergraduate education, said about the selection.

Students will gather for a faculty panel and question-and-answer session, Sunday, Aug. 23, at 3:30 p.m. in Barton Hall. Faculty panelists are: Jeremy Braddock, assistant professor of English; Jefferson Cowie, associate professor of labor history; Natalie Mahowald, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences; and Maureen O'Hara, professor of management at the Johnson School.

On Monday, Aug. 24, Cornell administrators, faculty members, graduate students and staff members will lead small groups across campus to discuss the themes and more in Steinbeck's work.

Among related Cornell events tied to the Reading Project: On Aug. 26 and 29, Cornell Cinema will screen John Ford's 1940 adaptation of "The Grapes of Wrath." Stuart Y. McDougal, a local retired film professor and the author of "From Literature to Film," will introduce the Aug. 26 screening at 7 p.m. in Willard Straight Theatre.

Exhibitions now on campus include: "The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck's Great American Novel," featuring many of the book's various editions and translations, in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Kroch Library Rotunda until Sept. 8; and "The Photography of Dorothea Lange," Aug. 21-Sept. 30 in the Carol Tatkon Center on North Campus, featuring Lange's iconic 1930s images of California migrant workers and Southern sharecroppers, from the Library of Congress. An exhibit of maps and images related to the novel, "The Geography of Wrath: Mapping Steinbeck's Great American Novel," will be on display in Olin Library from September to December.

For events, related reading and multimedia content, visit the official Reading Project Web site at The site includes a Grapes of Wrath Blog and links to a Reading Project Twitter feed, at and, respectively.

"The Grapes of Wrath" is also the Tompkins County Public Library's eighth annual Community Read. Copies of the Cornell edition have been made available at the library in Ithaca and through the Finger Lakes Library System, including community libraries in Caroline, Danby, Dryden, Groton, Lansing, Newfield and Trumansburg. TCPL will host discussion groups Sept. 16-17 and other events in September and October. For details visit

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Claudia Wheatley