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51 REVIEW ARTICLE THE NEWEST ELUCIDATIONS OF FÖRSTER Frederick P. W. McDowell (University of Iowa) The publication of James McConkey's THE NOVELS OF E. M. FÖRSTER (Ithaca: Cornell U P, 1957) inaugurated a renaissance in Forster criticism. Between 1943 (when Lionel Trilling's E. M. FORSTER was published by New Directions) and 1957, few articles appeared; and Rex Warner's 1953 pamphlet in Writers and Their Work Series was the only attempt made to survey the whole of Forster's work. Since 1957, articles on Forster have been ubiquitous, an exhaustive bibliography of Forster criticism has been gathered in ENGLISH FICTION IN TRANSITION, a special Forster number of MODERN FICTION STUDIES has appeared, and four books on Forster have been published. It Is with these books that I shall be primarily concerned.' Between Trilling's book and 1957, critics were inhibited from writing about Forster, presumably because Trilling's book was, within its limits, so authoritative Also F. R. Leavis's forthright SCRUTINY essay of 19382 may have had the same effect as Trilling's book. Trilling's chief contribution was to define the antitheses of Forster's novels and their dialectical patterns. Though his book is still useful, it now seems more a preliminary inquiry than a summation. For all its brilliance, it is reductive in its analyses, oversimplified in its formulations, and expeditious in its judgments, Though Trilling admires Forster's complexity, his criticism has too often the effect of making Forster seem less complex than he is. For example, Trilling views Rickie Elliot's soul in THE LONGEST JOURNEY as a battleground over which two contrasting groups do battle. Such indeed may be in roughest outline the pattern; but Ansel 1 and Stephen Wonham are less positive than Trilling's formulation would imply, and even Agnes Pembroke and Mrs. Failing have their strengths. Nor is Rickie Elliott impassive and unintelligent; he has perceptions which are dynamic forces in the novel. Similarly, some of Forster's recent critics have modified the political and economic dialectic which Trilling formulated for HOWARDS END. They have suggested that the connection between the Schlegels and the WiIcoxes (especially that between Margaret Schlegel and Henry Wilcox) is only one configuration in the novel. Cyrus Hoy emphasizes the disaster which results when Margaret fails to understand Leonard, and he asserts that the main antithesis is between imperialist and yeoman. James Hall notes first the division, then the reconciliation between Margaret and Helen, who are contrasting types of intellectuals. K. V/. Gransden in his book has taken the same line and stresses also the relationship between Margaret and Ruth Wilcox. Thomas Churchill argues that no significant connections at all are made in the novel. What is best in the novel and in Margaret Schlegel, he maintains—I Ike Gransden—stems from herearly fortuitous friendship with Ruth Wilcox.3 The point to all this is that HOWARDS END can support all these interpretations as well as the more schematic one suggested by Trilling. 52 As for the earlier judgments of Leavis, the new books and the recent articles on Forster both support and modify them. All recent writers on Forster agree with Leavis that A PASSAGE TO INDIA is his best book. They mostly disagree with him in his estimate of the early work. Contrary to Leavis, the later critics feel that THE LONGEST JOURNEY and HOWARDS END, despite their faults, have more substance than WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD and A ROOM WITH A VIEW. It may be that Leavis's enthusiasm for A PASSAGE TO INDIA has led to the flood of commentary on that novel. Indeed, A PASSAGE TO INDIA may soon rival MOBY DICK and THE BEAR as the most interpreted novel in English. McConkey's study of A PASSAGE TO INDIA seems to me to be still the best, although he too easily assumes, I think, that Professor Godbole must be Forster's voice speaking. Whereas the books under review make many new suggestions about A PASSAGE TO INDIA, they seem less central for this novel than do many of the recent articles.4 Even Crews' book, which I shall discuss below and which I regard as the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 51-58
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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