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E. M. Forster’s Legacies in British Fiction


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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‘The Muddling of the Arts’: Modernist Rites and Rhythms in Forster, Woolf and McEwan (Susan Reid)


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SUSAN REID (University of Northampton)

‘The Muddling of the Arts’: Modernist Rites and Rhythms in Forster, Woolf and McEwan

At a turning point in E. M. Forster’s bildungsroman The Longest Journey (1907), the main protagonist, Rickie Elliot, reflects on ‘the irony of the situation’ (ironically more complicated than he knows): ‘It reminded him of the Greek drama, where the actors know so little and the spectators so much’ (Forster 2012, 234). The idea ‘that all this world, and not part of it, is a stage’ reverberates throughout Forster’s work, together with the Greek conception of the unity of the arts. The Longest Journey, like much of Forster’s early fiction, amply demonstrates his familiarity with Greek drama, as well as with the operas of Richard Wagner, who sought to restore the ancient fusion of music and drama.1 The literary Wagnerism inspired by this most literary of composers was an important element underpinning the intermedial modernism of writers like Yeats, Joyce, Lawrence, Eliot and Woolf,2 but also Forster, for whom music, as Michelle Fillion argues, was ‘a prime contributor to [his] qualified modernism, and to his ultimate failure to connect’ (Fillion xviii). The lack of cohesion that Virginia Woolf attributed to Howards End (1910), in spite of its famous epigraph, is now understood as contributing to what David Bradshaw has called ‘a novel of contradictions’ (Bradshaw 171), a Forsterian modernism that I will relate in this chapter to Forster’s deliberate ‘muddling of the...

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