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E. M. Forster’s Legacies in British Fiction


Edited By Elsa Cavalié and Laurent Mellet

Since Forster’s death in 1970, many British novelists and film directors have acknowledged and even claimed the influence of the novelist of the English soul (in Woolf’s terms) and of a renewed faith in both human relationships and a quintessentially British liberal-humanism. After the ethical turn at the end of the twentieth century, British literature today seems to go back even more drastically to the figure of the individual human being, and to turn the narrative space into some laboratory of a new form of empowerment of the other’s political autonomy. It is in this context that the references to Forster are more and more frequent, both in British fiction and in academia. This book does not only aim at spotting and theorising this return to Forster today. Rather we endeavour to trace its genealogy and shed light on the successive modes of the legacy, from Forster’s first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) onwards, to the novelisation of Forster himself by Damon Galgut. How can the principle of connection, of correspondences and echoes, which informed Forster’s private life and approach to writing so much, equally characterise the aesthetic and political influence of his œuvre?


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Part I. New perspectives on Forster: personal legacies


Part I New perspectives on Forster: personal legacies Jeremy Tambling (University of Manchester) Civilization and Natural Depravity: On Forster, Melville, Lawrence, and Britten Melville’s novel Pierre is mentioned in Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, the Clark lectures in Cambridge in 1927 dedicated to Charles Mauron (1899–1966), Forster’s translator, an admirer of Bloomsbury and of Roger Fry, and a writer on psychoanalysis and literature. Aspects of the Novel is more interesting than its discussions of story, plot and character imply; these are formalist, because a central limitation of Forster is not to relate novels to history, rather to consider them ahistorically. As he says, ‘History develops, Art stands still’ (Forster 2005, 36). This statement, which does not allow for the novel creating history, nor for how history shapes novels, follows on from a negativity which criticises criticism for looking at novels in terms of how they respond to ‘tendencies’, i.e. historical changes. He prefers a quotation from Melville, from the novel most slighted in his own lifetime, but perhaps now more possible to read: Pierre, or the Ambiguities (31). In 1924, John Freeman (1880–1929) published a book on Melville, as, at the same time, Billy Budd had first appeared in an edition from Raymond Weaver. Like Maurice, its appearance was posthumous, thir- ty-three years late, though unlike Maurice, Billy Budd was late work with Melville, being written up to the time of his death in 1891. The quotation from Pierre appears at the end of Weaver’s book on Melville,...

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