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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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E. M. Forster and the Obsession for Rhythm: Rewriting ‘The Story of a Panic’ with ‘The Life to Come’ (Julie Chevaux)


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JULIE CHEVAUX (Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle)

E. M. Forster and the Obsession for Rhythm: Rewriting ‘The Story of a Panic’ with ‘The Life to Come’

E. M. Forster the ‘humanist’ is probably as well-known as E. M. Forster the novelist. His legacy is twofold: such texts as ‘What I Believe’ and ‘Two Cheers for Democracy’ are landmarks of liberal-humanism, a mindset jeopardized by the political and social upheaval of the twentieth century, and Forster’s fiction grows from the Edwardian comedy of manners to modernist fiction with A Passage to India. Lionel Trilling’s landmark study did not only associate Forster with liberal-humanism, but made it one of the central elements of his writing.1 David Medalie links this admiration for Forster, a form of political nostalgia and the fact that Forster’s modernism is often undervalued: ‘Critics who were themselves of a liberal-humanist orientation were reluctant to include the beloved sage in a group which included fascists, calcified ideologues, misogynists and obscurantists’ (Medalie 2). But as his fiction writing became more and more modernist, reflecting a growing pessimism that challenged the codes of the Edwardian novel, the humanist faith in personal relationships seemed to recede and give ground. It is Forster the problematic humanist who may call for closer attention today, as we may look at a case, less of later writers rewriting Forster, but of Forster rewriting himself, to bring humanist legacy to the edge, hovering on the brink of collapse and self-reinvention,...

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