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Thomas Wolfe and the Lost Generation

Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Reception to follow

Members fee ($0) and Non-members fee ($15).

Gorsline, Douglas W., Portrait of Thomas Wolfe. 1946. © North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Gorsline, Douglas W.,Portrait of Thomas Wolfe.1946. © North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

George Hovis

Thomas Wolfe and the Lost Generation

This lecture is sponsored by the William Orville Thomson Endowment.

Despite his protests to the contrary, American novelist Thomas Wolfe, whose writings are well represented in the Athenæum’s collections, is remembered as a representative of the “Lost Generation,” a generation of artists who renounced the outmoded verities of their forebears as useless in the Modern age. With the advent of the Great Depression, Wolfe confronted widespread suffering, especially in New York City, where he was living at the time, and this newfound concern for the plight of others made him reconsider not only the solipsism that had threatened his earlier fiction but the Modernist aesthetic that had informed it. In his posthumous novel,You Can’t Go Home Again(1940), Wolfe grew away from the bildungsromanto write proletarian fiction on a global scale. After exposing the unjust distribution of wealth in Manhattan and Brooklyn, he exposes the class system of England and the rise of Nazi oppression in Berlin. Just as he had earlier broken with the conventional truths of his hometown to become an artist, he now found it necessary to outgrow his own youthful assumptions and to understand more fully that his own material and spiritual health were tied up with that of his fellow man.

George Hovis is an associate professor of English at SUNY Oneonta and former president of the international Thomas Wolfe Society. He has published numerous articles on Wolfe and other writers of the American South, as well as a book, Vale of Humility: Plain Folk in Contemporary North Carolina Fiction.

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