“Journeys in the Life and Work of Thomas Wolfe”

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“It was his first journey to a strange place alone. Eliza packed an old valise carefully, and stowed away a box of sandwiches and eggs. He went away at night. As he stood by his valise, washed, brushed, excited, she wept a little. He was again, she felt, a little farther off. The hunger for voyages was in his face.”

The zeal for travel that fifteen-year-old Eugene Gant exhibits in Look Homeward, Angel forms a motif in the life and work of Thomas Wolfe, who declares in Of Time and the River that a twenty-hour train journey allows one to “live a life, share instantly in 10,000,000 other ones, and see pass before his eyes the infinite panorama of shifting images that make a nation’s history.”

Fittingly, the 2017 Thomas Wolfe Society meeting takes us to Indianapolis, Indiana–the Crossroads of America–a place symbolizing Wolfe’s passion for movement and new vistas.

Wolfe first traveled through Indiana in 1904, “going down along beside the Wabash River” to the St. Louis World’s Fair, as Eliza recounts in The Lost Boy.

After seven European trips, he visited Indiana again in 1938, taking the Southwestern Limited to Indianapolis and then continuing to Lafayette to deliver a lecture, his last, at Purdue University.

In a letter to Elizabeth Nowell, he exclaimed, “The Middle-western thing—Indianapolis, Purdue, and all of it—was swell!”

When we meet at Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station, we will honor Wolfe’s enthusiasm for travel, trains, and also the Midwest.

For its 39th annual conference, the Thomas Wolfe Society invited papers exploring journeys—physical, intellectual, or emotional—in Thomas Wolfe’s work or life, such as his own travels and the inspiration he derived from them, his wandering characters, evolutions in thinking, the importance of movement of any sort. Proposals on any theme related to Wolfe and Journeying—or on any theme related to Wolfe and his work—were welcomed.

We will meet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 123 West Louisiana St. (located in an Art Deco-styled railroad shed next to the country’s first Union Station).  The Crowne Plaza has a railroad motif and even some Pullman cars containing guestrooms.

To book a room at the conference rate of $159 per night, call 317.631.2221 and use the group code WOL. (Questions? Email TWS President Mark Canada: canadam@iuk.edu.)

The program is still in the planning stages, but we already have scheduled:

  • a screening of Genius
  • a panel discussion of the film
  • a beer tasting at the Rathskeller, a restaurant located at a German club called the Athenaeum

As for the papers, we will depend once again on the ample talent we regularly find in our members, along with other scholars and admirers of Wolfe and his work. Questions? Contact TWS Vice President Rebecca Godwin (rlgodwin@barton.edu)—and to help Rebecca spread the word by sharing with colleagues.

Learn more about the Indianapolis Union Railroad Station

National Parks Service webpage on the Indianapolis Union Station: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/indianapolis/unionstation.htm

The history of Union Station: http://www.indianahistory.org/our-services/books-publications/railroad-symposia-essays-1/The%20History%20of%20Union%20Station.pdf

Indianapolis Union Station wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indianapolis_Union_Station

Who Killed Indianapolis Union Station?: http://www.indianapolismonthly.com/city-buzz/who-killed-union-station/

"Genius" (2016 movie)

“Genius” (2016 movie)

Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station

Wolfe would have loved the hotel’s railroad motif.


Indianapolis Union Station


Map of Indianapolis

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South Illinois Street entrance.


Wolfe traveling in Germany…Wolfe the traveler


Indianapolis Union Station-inside


Indianapolis Union Station–entrance


Downtown Indianapolis, IN


Indianapolis Union Station–check-in


Indianapolis Union Station — check in


Indianapolis Union Station


Indianapolis Union Station–inside comfort