Writing between the Genres

  • Judith Scherer Herz


Forster was always writing. Indeed, the common notion that somehow his pen dried up after 1924 with the publication of A Passage to India could not be more false. The impulse to account, recount, tell, meditate, speculate took form daily in diary, commonplace book, notebooks, letters, to say nothing of the stories, essays, lectures, reviews, broadcasts and novels. What identifies all this writing as from the same pen is, first, its open-endedness, its unwillingness to dogmatize or reduce; second, its creation of a voice at once vatic and particular; and, third, its powerful narrative impulse. This does not mean that Forster was primarily a storyteller, weaving experience into anecdote. Rather he wrote as one interested in finding out what he was thinking. This exploratory quality is revealed in his attention to the act of telling, in his awareness of writing as a form of experience itself. But such a statement as ‘writing is the experience it records’ does not, in Forster’s case, imply a writer peering into an endlessly receding succession of mirrors. It does, however, define the text as an open space that is created by the act of exploration. At the same time, Forster seems detached from this process; he never let himself be seduced or tricked by his own verbal skills.


Short Story Oblique Comment Short Narrative Fictional Mode Lower Personality 
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  1. 1.
    Aspects of the Novel, Abinger Edition, ed. O. Stallybrass (London: Edward Arnold, 1974) p. 17.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Virginia Woolf, The Pargiters (London: Hogarth Press, 1978) p. 33. She made the same distinction in ‘The New Biography’.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Claude Summers, E. M. Forster (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1983) pp. 148–52.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Oscar Wilde, Complete Shorter Fiction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980) p. 258; ‘The House of Judgement’ was originally published in 1894.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    See Judith Scherer Herz, ‘The Double Nature of Forster’s Fiction’, English Literature in Transition, 21 (1978) pp. 254–65;Google Scholar
  6. repr. in A. Wilde (ed.), Critical Essays on E. M. Forster (Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall, 1985) pp. 84–94.Google Scholar

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© Judith Scherer Herz 1988

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  • Judith Scherer Herz

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