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Queer Fragments: Ruination and Sexuality in E. M. Forster

From: College Literature
Volume 41, Number 3, Summer 2014
pp. 27-44 | 10.1353/lit.2014.0040



Critics have tended to treat the crucial leitmotif of ruins in E. M. Forster in terms of an unremitting nostalgia or melancholia. This paper argues that Forster’s relationship to spatial damage, destruction, and loss is much more complicated and capacious—anguished and mournful, but also mingled with certain provisional compensations, even pleasures. What troubles matters, the essay contends, is a subtle but recurrent association throughout Forster’s writing between ruins and queer sexuality: a coupling that emerges in Howards End (1910), Maurice (1913–1914), the “letter” to Mohammed el-Adl (1922–1929), and the short story, “The Obelisk” (1939). In these works, we find a topography of queerly coded ruination that sheds light on otherwise overlooked dimensions of Forster’s treatment of architecture, sexuality, time, secrecy and publicity, and culture.

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