Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Thomas Wolfe's literary output includes four long novels and a vast number of short stories and poems. In addition to this he left a great deal of manuscript which is still in the process of being examined and assorted. His four long novels have drawn the greatest attention, for it is in these that he has done his finest and most provocative work. In each one Wolfe is the central figure, and through his eyes we are allowed to see the world as he saw it. It is because of this that the charges of egotism, paranoia tendencies, genius, immaturity, and plain mediocrity have been hurled at him. From the statement of Sinclair Lewis that Wolfe might live to be the greatest writer that America has yet produced, to Canby's "I think that this novel Of Time and the Riverlike many fiery and ambitious American books ... is an artistic flop," Wolfe has been analyzed and interpreted by critics, near critics, and uncritical sentiment. The most consistent criticism leveled at him is that whatever success he may have attained is due to autobiographical memory, and that if he laid aside the tools of subjectivity, his work would have only an ordinary prosaic quality.

It is the purpose of this study to demonstrate that Wolfe's accomplishments were due not to autobiographical memory but instead to a supreme intensity of poetic feeling and tremendous scope of power and imagery--to show that Thomas Wolfe was an artist who was abundantly rich in word range, a master of characterization and of creative imagination, thereby to refute the claim of those who narrow his potentialities merely to those of an autobiographical nature.





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