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3. A VALUABLE CONTRIBUTION TO FORD SCHOLARSHIP Robert Green. Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics. Cambridge : Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981. $39.95 The writings of Ford Madox Ford have long been the special domain of American scholars : the major achievements of Ford scholarship—works such as those by Harvey, Ludwig, Mizener, MacShane, and Ohmann—have in fact been exclusively American . Thus it is astonishing but true that Robert Green's book represents the first extensive analysis of the writings of Ford Madox Ford by an English critic. If this signals the awakening of an interest in Ford by British scholars who have so long and so inexplicably tended to neglect Ford, then Professor Green may be said not only to have written a fine study but to have made a good beginnning. The focus of Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics is on the historical background to Ford's writings—particularly shifts in political affairs and related social attitudes before, during, and after World War I. Green traces Ford's reactions to those changes: his pessimistic assessment of collectivist forces in English politics before the war, his growing skepticism during it, and his turning toward values rooted in tradition and a cohesive sense of community after. The book is arranged in four main parts covering the years 1891-1909, 1910-1915, 19161928 , and 1929-1939 respectively; each of these parts is itself divided into two chapters, and in the first three parts these double chapters follow a parallel pattern—there is an initial chapter which deals predominately with the political and social background and Ford's minor writings, followed by a second chapter which focuses primarily on one of Ford's major works. In this way Green provides a chronological examination of the political and social background of Ford's writings but at the same time centers his study around the Fifth Queen trilogy, The Good Soldier, and the Parade's End quartet, before and around which he arranges shorter discussions of Ford's other works. As such an arrangement suggests, and Green himself stresses, Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics makes no important revaluation of the orthodox assessment of Ford's achievement in fiction. Green's claim is that he provides "a fresh context in which to situate those major fictions," and, although it cannot be said that the context Green provides is entirely fresh, he certainly considers the political and social background of Ford's writings in a far more systematic way than has ever been previously attempted. Given the emphasis on technique which has been such a persistent feature of Ford scholarship, it would not be wrong to say that Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics is particularly welcome precisely because it does not focus directly on Ford's contribution to the technique of the novel, but to put the matter that way would be to minimize one really distinctive quality of this book—the sensitive handling of the relationship of fictional form and political context which is its special achievement. Green's discussions of Ford's major works are substantial critical essays as well as significant comments on the background from which they emerged. In other respects, Professor Green does at least competent work. On many of Ford's less often read works—for example, A Call, The Inheritors, Mr. Fleight— Green has some illuminating points to make, and his comments are informed by an excellent command of the scholarly and critical background. In fact, not the least of the virtues of this book are the many ways in which Green tactfully uses (and 205 often qualifies) previous scholarship. Furthermore, Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics is provided with some useful apparatus: each of its four parts is prefaced by a dated list of Ford's novels, prose, poetry, and children's books in four parallel columns, and the selected bibliography supplemments D. D. Harvey's for the period 1962 to 1977, with a few additional works up to 1979. In short, Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics is a valuable contribution to Ford scholarship, though it has some very real weaknesses as well. Perhaps the most important of these is that, in concentrating so much...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 205-206
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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