Environment-as-meaning is, of course, not new in the fictional mode, for man's interaction with his environment is indeed the very essence of fiction itself. But Steinbeck's romantic attachment to his country and its people is, in his best work, transmuted into authentic emotion, revealed in vivid, evocative passages which are distinctive. Couched in prose reminiscent of romantic poetry, they arouse sensations which unfold in dramatic action often destructive of dreams, hope, and even life itself -Martha Heasley Cox "In Search of John Steinbeck: His People and His Land The Steinbeck Center at San Jose State University, once located within the University Library and now existing within the Module buildings on campus, first breathed life in February of 1971 with the organization of a three-day Conference and Film Festival celebrating the man whose work has influenced so many. The conference, slated for five hundred individuals, attracted more than eight hundred registrants from sixteen states, Canada, and Japan.
Formally dedicated in 1974, and originally instituted my Martha Heasley Cox, an instructor at SJSU since 1955, the Steinbeck Center houses books on California history and politics, secondary articles on Steinbeck, a complete archive of over 10, 000 reviews clipped the national newspapers, signed first editions, donated items, such as script drafts for films based upon the author's work, letters to friends, "The Long Valley Ledger", a manuscript of Steinbeck's short stories written in 1933, and furniture which belonged to author. Much of Steinbeck's observations focus upon areas south of San Jose, so one might ask, "Why is the center centrally located in San Jose?" San Jose if frequently mentioned in Steinbeck's fiction. Molly Morgan, the young schoolteacher in The Pastures of Heaven, attended Teachers College, which is now San Jose State University. Perhaps one of most important works, Of Mice and Men, was worked on while he resided in nearby Los Gatos. Steinbeck also had family connections within the area through is mother and his first wife, Carol, both of whom possessed roots a few blocks from San Jose State University.
The Center's mission, as stated by current director Susan Shillings law, is, essentially .".. to promote Steinbeck studies." To this end the periodicals, transcripts, and archive manuscripts are easily accessed either personally or through an extensive database. The Center also sponsor's several programs, including the Steinbeck Fellows Program, made possible by former director Martha Heasley Cox, which .".. offers new writers of any age the opportunity to pursue significant project in collaboration with other writers, faculty and graduate students." The John Steinbeck award, "in the souls of the people" is awarded to those individuals who best represent, through creative endeavor, the passion, beauty, and immaculate suffering of so many others. Past recipients have been Bruce Springsteen (1996), John Sayles (1998), Arthur Miller (1999), and Jackson Browne (2002). Twice a year the center publishes Steinbeck Studies, a newsletter of Steinbeck related topics..