E.M. Forster and English Place: A Literary Topography

G4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


Internal Authors/Editors


Publication Details

List of Authors: Jason Finch
Publisher: Åbo Akademi University
Place: Turku, Finland
Publication year: 2011
Number of pages: 458
ISBN: 9789517655620
eISBN: 978-951-765-563-7


Abstract

Although E.M. Forster's concern with the imaginative and emotional aspects of place is well-known, the specifics of what he meant by place and the way it changed throughout his seventy-year writing career are not. This study proposes a ‘deep locational criticism’ derived by combining the spatial theory of Henri Lefebvre with empirical topographic and historical approaches to the particular English zones with which Forster was most familiar. These zones are conceptualized with a multiple London at the centre, then the Home Counties and a notion of Wild England as concentric circles beyond.

The introductory chapter is a survey of approaches to space and place produced in different disciplines, including philosophy, narratology, literary criticism, human geography and sociolinguistics, which proposes a tripartite model of literary place: physical encounters (incorporating a personal dimension in an academic study of literary place), loco-reference and intra-textual landscapes. Each subsequent chapter focuses on a particular English place and traces its presence and alterations chronologically throughout Forster’s writings. Six places of radically varying sizes are covered in this way: Sawston (an imaginative construct based on Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells in Kent); ‘Wild England’; Surrey; London; King’s College, Cambridge; Rooksnest, Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Among Forster’s works his fiction, notably the novels The Longest Journey, A Room with a View, Howards End and Maurice and certain short stories, is present, but equal weight is given to his non-fiction, for example his diaries and journals, various essays, his Marianne Thornton: A Domestic Biography, and “West Hackhurst: A Surrey Ramble”, his little-known but highly revealing account of his life in Surrey and family connections there. Forster’s views of English place were always in flux and examination of their details calls into question many aspects of the familiar and accepted account of him. It also suggests new directions for future studies of the so-called age of Modernism and indeed for literary studies more generally. Starting from the details and narratives of specific places writers inhabit and describe, a spatial or topographic sub-field of literary study could grow towards the level of sophistication and maturity long ago attained by literary historical study.


Last updated on 2019-14-12 at 03:22