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E. M. Forster

Forster, E. M. (Edward Morgan Forster), 1879–1970, English author, one of the most important British novelists of the 20th cent. After graduating from Cambridge, Forster lived in Italy and Greece. During World War I he served with the International Red Cross in Egypt. In 1946, Forster became an honorary fellow of King's College, Cambridge, where he lived until his death. He received the Order of Merit in 1968.

Forster's fiction, conservative in form, is in the English tradition of the novel of manners. He explores the emotional and sensual deficiencies of the English middle class, and examines its relationship to other social classes, developing his themes by means of irony, wit, and symbolism. He also often treats the contrasts between human freedom and repression. His first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, appeared in 1905 and was followed in quick succession by The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908), and Howard's End (1910). His last and most widely acclaimed novel, A Passage to India (1924), treats the relations between a group of British colonials and native Indians and considers the difficulty of forming human relationships, of "connecting"; the novel also explores the nature of external and internal reality. Forster's short stories are collected in The Celestial Omnibus (1911) and The Eternal Moment (1928).

After 1928 he turned his attention increasingly to nonfiction. Notable collections of his essays and literary criticism are Abinger Harvest (1936) and Two Cheers for Democracy (1951). Aspects of the Novel (1927) is a major study of the novel and Forster's most important critical work. In 1971, Maurice, a novel Forster had written in 1913–14, was published posthumously. A homosexual, Forster had refrained from publishing it during his lifetime because of the work's sympathetic treatment of homosexuality. The story of a young man's self-awakening, Maurice treats a familiar Forster theme, the difficulty of human connection. His unpublished short stories and essays were published posthumously in Albergo Empedocle and Other Writings (1972). In all his works Forster's style is impeccable.

Bibliography

See his selected writings, ed. by G. B. Parker (1968); his selected letters, ed. by M. Lago and P. N. Furbank (2 vol., 1983–84); biographies by D. Godfrey (1968), C. J. Summers (1987), N. Beauman (1994), and W. Moffat (2010); studies by G. H. Thomson (1967), O. Stallybrass (1969), P. Gardner (1973) and as ed. (1984), P. J. Scott (1983), and F. Kermode (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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