The Songs of a People: Steinbeck and Transatlantic Song

Frank Ferguson, Grainne Milner-McLoone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we will examine the significance of place and music within Steinbeck’s work. In particular, we will explore how Steinbeck’s conception of place in his ancestral County Derry has figured as part of a wider transatlantic discourse in which writers have looked to this area in the north of Ireland to explore their sense of their personal and familial identity. As part of this process, the idealization of space and memory through the literature, history, and heritage “of the people” has been invoked. In contrast, we will compare Steinbeck’s approach with that of two writers also connected to the area, the New Hampshire poet Robert Dinsmoor and the song collector Sam Henry. The former, of Scotch-Irish descent, had a negative view of his family’s stay in Ireland; the latter, who lived most of his life in Ireland, was a champion of the area and sought to promote an authentic as possible record of local song and culture. We will maintain that Steinbeck’s sense of his people differs sharply with these two authors and offers an alternative version of the place and people as the returning American whose Ireland is more enigmatic and literary than either Dinsmoor’s or Henry’s Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-171
Number of pages16
JournalSteinbeck Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Dec 2022


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