Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Karen Sullivan

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Novelist Thomas Wolfe sought to develop a new tradition of writing which would faithfully capture the experience of Americans. His vivid portrayals of man in various places demonstrate the inherent dignity of man’s struggles as he strives to understand his position in his world. Through his aesthetic choices, Wolfe captured how man’s identity consists of the entirety of his experiences. His dedicated rendering—and inclusion—of seemingly inconsequential details exhibits the worth which these particulars—and the history associated with them – hold in the lives of the men who come into contact with them. This project seeks to explore Thomas Wolfe’s depictions of the urban landscape, the rural landscape, and the wandering spirit. The first chapter analyzes how, although the structure of the city may confirm man’s attempts at advancement, his confidence in the stability of his systematized lifestyle relies on a delusional denial of his limitations and the destabilizing forces against which he is powerless. Meanwhile the second chapter studies the conflict between man’s affiliation with the natural landscape of the countryside, due to his personal and ancestral bonds with the eternal earth, and his estrangement from others, which causes him to be haunted by loneliness. In focusing on the wandering spirit which characterizes Wolfe’s protagonists and their obsession with trains, the final chapter evaluates the tension inherent in man’s propensity to roam, which results simultaneously from his desire for liberation from the constraints of the predictable life as well as from his deprivation of a secure haven.

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