Ranging from To a God Unknown (1933) to The Pearl (1947), this essay explores Steinbeck's biopolitical imagination, which is of pressing concern today because it involves the relationship between our biological selves and our political climate, between contagion and human community. It also involves crucial questions about the future. Where are we heading, as a species? What changes do we face, how do we contemplate extinction, and what grounds are there for a fragile sense of hope? In other words, this essay is about why and how to read Steinbeck in a pandemic.

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