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Only Connect

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 III: Aesthetic legacies: ‘Only connect’?


Part III Aesthetic legacies: ‘Only connect’? Catherine Lanone (Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle) ‘Common Garden Variety’ or ‘Rare Bird’: The Persistence of E. M. Forster’s Singular Song Sometime in the early 1990s, after the popular success of the Merchant Ivory film adaptations of A Room with a View and Howards End,1 E. M. Forster became obsolete  – or so it seemed. His narrative method was deemed too simple for modernism, his beliefs too naïve, as if he embod- ied the humanism of a belated world-view. Moreover, he had failed to acknowledge his homosexuality, withdrawing far from the world’s prying eyes to the stronghold of a timeless Cambridge college. Though he could not be entirely struck off the literary canon, Forster came to be held, as novelist Zadie Smith puts it, as a rather ordinary species of novelist: ‘In the taxonomy of English writing, E. M. Forster is not an exotic creature. We file him under Notable English Novelists, common or garden variety’ (Smith 2009, 14). In short, Forster was not considered a proper writer for the postmodern critical age, an age of readily available television2 and the Internet. Yet it may well be, of course, precisely the opposite. First because, in a short story entitled ‘The Machine Stops’, Forster invented the Inter- net, or the likes of it, and secondly because a new twenty-first-century generation of writers has begun to claim kinship, ranging from a nod- ding acquaintance to an intertextual tribute. We shall first briefly study Forster’s glimpse...

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