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Janet FlannerJanet Flanner

Hoosier Connection: Janet Flanner was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. She wrote The Cubical City which has references to nature and a reflection of her time in Indiana.

Works Discussed: The Cubical City

Janet Flanner was born on March 13, 1892, in Indianapolis. Flanner received an excellent education at both the local public school, which she attended until the sixth grade, and the new private school in Indianapolis, Tudor Hall. In this private school, Flanner developed her love of writing.

Pennslyvania Street, Indianapolis
Pennsylvania Street looking north from Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. William H. Ball Photo Company, 1920.

After graduating high school, Flanner and her family traveled abroad for a year before returning to Indiana. The traveling sparked an interest in Flanner to explore the world outside of Indianapolis because in 1912 she enrolled in the University of Chicago in Illinois. Two years after graduating in 1914, Flanner returned to her roots in Indianapolis where she took up a career as the first cinema critic for the Indianapolis Star.

In 1917, one year after moving back to her hometown, Flanner took a job in Pennsylvania at a girl’s reformatory to explore the world outside Indianapolis. However, she did not remain long in Pennsylvania before moving to a more liberal part of the United States-- New York City.

In 1922, Flanner moved to Paris, France, and began to focus more on her writing. Though she was primarily a newspaper journalist, she did write one novel, The Cubical City. This work spoke about landmarks and nature that are reflections of her early life in Indiana.

The Cubical City takes place in New York City, and is a love story based around the main character, Delia. There are several references to the land Flanner once called home in Indianapolis. She speaks about nature, the trees and the birds with a reminiscent attitude. She discusses issues of deforestation and urban sprawl when she talks about the tragedy of trees being replaced by buildings, and the bright seasons during the different times of the year. For example, the novel states:

What had once been trees from open spaces were long since turned to beams, gilded and carved before they had been set up in her rooms and the only visible leaves and flowers were those flattened by her feet on the garden of her rug. (18)

This statement shows that Flanner longed for the hometown she left, the nature that surrounded her in Indianapolis. Even though she found liberation in New York, she had to sacrifice the beauty of the land to quench her curiosity.

As the novel continues, Flanner mentions a fictional town, which she only refers to as a Middle Western town. Although she never states the town is Indianapolis, her only midwestern experience involved Indiana. There are references to this town in more than one part of the novel, which may indicate that she is writing about the midwestern town of her former home in Indianapolis.

Talbott Avenue, Indianapolis

Talbott Avenue, Indianapolis. Copyright Indiana Penny Postcard Collection.


It was a middle western town that boasted of its occasional wooded streets though in the outskirts where the Pooles lived, a certain foresting was demanded even without affection. (33)


One of Delia’s suitors, Paul, tries to convince her that there are other places they may live happily. "There’d be huge forests, speckled with orchids and hummingbirds. Beautiful ones, Delia. And rice fields with Buffaloes wading as we rode past" (78-79). By describing the beauty of the land, Flanner relates to the forests and lands she knew in Indiana.

Flanner continued to write frequently after the publication of The Cubical City, but it remained her only novel. She lived in Paris until 1975, when she returned to New York City and remained there until her death on November 7, 1978.

Flanner's writing connects to the land by suggesting a longing for the peace of nature and the serenity of her homeland. Although she remained away from Indiana most of her life, she reminisced about the land she knew when she grew up in Indianapolis.



Flanner, Janet. Darlinghissima. Ed. Natalia Danesi Murray. New York: Random House Inc., 1985.

---. Janet Flanner’s World. Ed. Irving Drutman. New York, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. 1979.

---. The Cubical City. Southern Illinois University Press, 1975.

Encyclopedia Britannica. Sept. 2002. "Women in American History." 14 September 2002 <http://search.eb.com/women/articles/

Rood, Karen L. “Janet Flanner.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Writers in Paris. Ed. Karen Lane Rood. Gale Research Co., 1980. Vol. 4:151-61.

Vanausdall, Jeanette. Pride and Protest: The Novel in Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1999.


Abbott, Bernice. "Janet Flanner." Found in The Talk of the Town, Jane Grant, "The New Yorker." Photograph courtesy of Commerce Graphics Ltd., Inc. 7 November 2002. <http://libweb.uoregon.edu/speccoll/mss/JaneGrant/
human/janet.html>.Copyright © Bernice Abbott, 1927.

"Pennsylvania Street looking north from Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana." W. H. Bass Photo Company. Found in archives, Indiana Historical Society. 14 November 2002. <
>. Copyright © William H. Bass Photo Comapany, 1920.

"Talbott Avenue, Indianapolis." Archives, Indiana Penny Postcard Collection. 14 November 2002. <http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/in/marion/
>. Copyright © Indiana Penny Postcard Collection.


Women in American History