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English Literature Author: E. M. Forster

by Elizabeth MacLeod Walls
Nebraska Wesleyan University
Lincoln, Nebraska

Edward Morgan Forster

Major Works

E. M. Forster's agile style and subtlety of insight, showcased in such novels as Howards End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924), contributed to the advent of modernism, an artistic and ideological revolution brought to fruition in the early-to-mid-twentieth century. Forster's literary career resulted partly from two important intellectual influences in his life: the Cambridge University Apostles and the Bloomsbury Group in London. Members of these two cadre of philosophers and artists included such notable figures of the period as G. E. Moore, H. O. Meredith, Maynard Keynes, Lytton Stratchey, George Trevelyan, Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, Leonard Woolf, and Virginia Woolf.

After completing A Passage to India, arguably his best novel, Forster concentrated his efforts on short fiction, essay writing, biography, literary criticism, and broadcasting "books talks" for the British Broadcasting Corporation, which he did until 1960. Two examples of his socio-literary observations are Aspects of the Novel (1927) and Abinger Harvest (1936). Aspects of the Novel -- six critical essays first given as the Clark Lectures at Cambridge University in 1927 -- is of particular importance to literary scholars. In this noteworthy example of modernist literary criticism, Forster coins the terms "flat" and "round" characters, offers commentary on significant literary figures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and provides his modern readers with substantial reasons for breaking from the Victorian literary tradition.

Forster spent the remainder of his long life promoting democracy (best seen in his 1951 collection of essays, Two Cheers for Democracy), making recordings for BBC radio, and giving lectures throughout the United Kingdom and America. Although Forster's public hiatus from fiction writing prompted later critics to lament the apparent brevity of his literary career, an overview of any Forster bibliography underscores his prodigiousness as a writer. By the end of his life, Forster's diverse writings numbered in the hundreds and included not only literary and critical works, but also a play, a libretto for Benjamin Britten's opera Billy Budd, myriad creative nonfiction, and poetry. E. M. Forster died in Coventry at the age of 91. His only novel with a homosexual theme, Maurice, was published posthumously along with several short stories exploring the same theme and collected under the title The Life to Come and Other Stories.

Major Works
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905)
  • A Room with a View (1908)
  • Howards End (1910)
  • The Celestial Omnibus and Other Stories (1911)
  • A Passage to India (1924)
  • Abinger Harvest (1936)
  • Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
Edward Morgan Forster is born in London on New Year's Day.

Forster's father, Edward Forster, dies of consumption, causing Forster to be raised by his mother, Lily Forster.

Lily Forster moves herself and Morgan to Rooksnest.

Attends the Kent House Boarding School.

Attends Tonbridge Boarding School.

Begins his undergraduate tenure at King's College, Cambridge.

Elected to the Apostles, the literary and philosophical discussion group known also as the "Conversazione Society," comprised of King's College and Trinity College undergraduates.

Lily moves the family to Weybridge. Forster and his mother travel to Italy, a trip that inspires Forster's first two novels.

Forster and his mother travel to Greece. Forster is invited to lecture for the Working Men's College in London.

Publishes "The Other Side of the Hedge" in the Independent.

Publishes Where Angels Fear to Tread.

Travels to Nassenheide, Germany, to act as tutor to the children of Elizabeth von Arnim.

Publishes A Room with a View. "The Celestial Omnibus" is published in the Albany Review.

Publishes Howards End and begins Maurice.

Publishes The Celestial Omnibus and Other Stories. He begins but does not finish Arctic Summer.

Tours India with George Trevelyan.

Travels to Alexandria as a "Searcher" for the Red Cross.

Meets Mohammed el Adl in Alexandria.

Travels once again to India.

Publishes A Passage to India.

Forster and Lily move to West Hackhurst.

Delivers BBC broadcasts on various books.

Publishes Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, a biography of his Cambridge mentor, and is named president of the National Council for Civil Liberties.

Publishes Abinger Harvest.

Begins his crusade against fascism.

Gives Rede Lecture at Cambridge honoring Virginia Woolf.

Lily Forster dies at the age of 90.

King's College, Cambridge offers Forster an honorary fellowship.

Visits America, giving a lecture at Harvard University on "The Raison d'Etre of Criticism in the Arts."

Visits America again, giving a lecture on "Art for Art's Sake" at the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Publishes Two Cheers for Democracy.

Publishes Marianne Thornton, a biography of his great aunt.

Appears as a witness in the Lady Chatterley trial.

Awarded the Order of Merit.

Has a stroke at King's College, is taken to Coventry, and there dies.

Elizabeth MacLeod Walls earned her Ph.D. in English literature and rhetorical studies at Texas Christian University, where she was the Ida Green Fellow in Literature and the associate editor of Advances in the History of Rhetoric. MacLeod Walls has published articles on E. M. Forster, Percy Lubbock, and the rhetoric of modernism, and she has recently co-edited, with Linda K. Hughes and the late Mary Lago, The BBC Talks of E. M. Forster, which will be published by the University of Missouri Press in 2004. MacLeod Walls teaches at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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