E. M. Forster

E. M. Forster

E.M. Forster published his first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, in 1905, which was quickly followed in 1907 by The Longest Journey and then in 1908 by A Room with a View. Forster’s major breakthrough came in 1910 with the book Howard’s End. Forster was associated with the Bloomsbury Group, a collective of intellectuals and peers, including Virginia Woolf, Benjamin Britten, Roger Fry, and John Maynard Keynes. The 1924 publication of A Passage to India firmly cemented Forster in the literary firmament as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. It was the last novel Forster ever completed.
Forster then turned his attention to teaching and criticism; his Clark Lectures, delivered at Cambridge in 1927, were gathered into a much-admired collection of essays on writing published as Aspects of the Novel. In 1946, Forster accepted a fellowship at Cambridge where he remained until his death in 1970.
Forster’s other writings include The Hill of Devi, an account of his experience as secretary in the Indian state of Dewas Senior; Pharos and Pharillon, a group of essays about Alexandria originally published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf; Maurice, a novel on homosexual love; and The Life to Come, a collection of short stories.

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Aspects of the Novel

Sponsored by Trinity College of the University of Cambridge, The Clark Lectures have a long and distinguished history and have featured remarks by some of England’s most important literary minds: Leslie Stephen, T. S. Eliot, F. R. Leavis, William Epsom, and I. A. Richards. All have given celebrated and widely influential talks as featured keynote speakers.

n important milestone came in 1927 when, for the first time, a novelist was invited to speak: E.M. Forster had recently published his masterpiece, A Passage to India, and rose to the occasion, delivering eight spirited and penetrating lectures on the novel.

The decision to accept the lectureship was a difficult one for Forster. He had deeply ambivalent feelings about the use of criticism. Although suspecting that criticism was somewhat antithetical to creation, and upset by the thought that time spent on the lectures took away from his own work, Forster accepted. His talks were witty and informal, and consisted of sharp penetrating bursts of insight rather than overly-methodical analysis. In short, they were a great success. Gathered and published later as Aspects of the Novel, the ideas articulated in his lectures would gain widespread recognition and currency in twentieth century criticism.

Of all of the insights contained within Aspects of the Novel, none has been more influential or widely discussed than Forster’s discussion of "flat" and "round" characters. So familiar by now as to seem commonplace, Forster’s distinction is meant to categorize the different qualities of characters in literature and examine the purposes to which they are put. Still, it would be wrong to reduce this book to its most famous line of argument and enquiry. Aspects of the Novel also discusses the difference between story and plot, the characteristics of prophetic fiction, and narrative chronology. Throughout, Forster draws on his extensive readings in English, French, and Russian literature, and discusses his ideas in reference to such figures as Joyce, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, James, Sterne, Defoe, and Proust.

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The Hill of Devi

Join a young E.M. Forster on his personal journey of discovering his beloved India for the first time. Through letters written home and personal recollections, Forster paints the picture of Dewas State, a strange, bewildering, and enchanting slice of pre-independence India.
In this collection, Forster shares insight into the lives of Indian royalty, and at times humorous accounts of the stark contrasts between excess and poverty he encounters. From letters that set the scene for Forster’s lifelong friendship with the Maharaja, to an essay on the Maharaja himself and his experiences as the Maharaja’s personal secretary, The Hill of Devi is a fascinating chronicle of the author’s experience in the land he called "the oddest corner of the world outside Alice in Wonderland."
The Hill of Devi is an essential companion to Forster’s masterwork, A Passage to India.

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Pharos and Pharillon

Alexandria, Egypt: at one point a trading hub and a cosmopolitan crossroads of the world. It was also the place where, during World War I, E.M. Forster fell in love with a young Egyptian man. Pharos and Pharillon is a collection of essays and articles he wrote about Alexandria, mostly written during that time and dedicated to that man, Mohammed el Adl.
Organized in two parts, the book opens with Pharos and seven stories that paint a poetic picture of the ancient city and its history. The second half, Pharillon, consists of four stories, followed by Forster’s moving introduction of the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy to the English-speaking world. The division in the book is signaled by Cavafy’s now famous poem, "The God Abandons Antony."
The sketches were written for the local Egyptian press and were also published in The Nation and Athenaeum, a British political newspaper owned by Leonard Woolf, husband of writer Virginia Woolf. The Woolfs published Pharos and Pharillon in 1923, and with its poignant accounts of the events and history of one of the first global cities, it remains an enlightening portrait, and a useful guidebook, into modern times.

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E. M. Forster