Works about E. M. Forster


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A lot of e-mails I receive ask what references I can recommend, and where to find them. It may be obvious, but the best way to go about this is to visit a good library, and at a computer terminal search for the subject "E M Forster." Even a title search of "E M Forster" will turn up a lot, since almost all criticism collections or biographies are called "E. M. Forster" or at least include his name in the title. In any case, I guarantee that this is the cheapest way to find valuable material. I found a motherlode of Forster material in my main college library. Some libraries, of course, won't have as much as you'd like, but these days Forster-related books have experience a resurgence (probably thanks to the spurt of film adaptations within the 1980s and early 1990s), so you may luck out after all.

The following is by no means a comprehensive list of biographies and criticism collections -- being a Forsterite, I also happen to be a collector of any Forster-related books (particularly of Howards End) I can find. The list is not something that I put together blindly; I own some version of each title mentioned and can personally attest to each one's importance or usefulness. This does not mean that I have read everything cover to cover. :-) All of the them are in book format, but as time passes I may venture to include journal articles as well.


  • Furbank, P. N. - E. M. Forster: A Life
    Harcourt Brace & Company, 1977-1978
       This is a very rich biography; Forster himself asked Furbank to be his biographer. If you have to actually buy an EMF biography, this is the one to get. It is available in both paperback and hardcover. It was originally published in two volumes, but recent editions have combined the two into one book.
          [This appears to be out of print right now, unfortunately.]

  • Beauman, Nicola - E. M. Forster: A Biography
    Alfred Knopf, 1994
       (This is the U.S. version - the book was originally published in 1993 in Britain by Hodder & Stoughton as Morgan: A Biography of E. M Forster, so you can look for that title as well.) I obtained a second-hand hardcover copy recently, but haven't had a chance to read through all of it yet. The main difference between this biography and Furbank's is obvious -- Beauman writes with more of a personal touch. I don't mean to sound like I'm putting down Furbank's bio, but Beauman's version doesn't feel as detached from EMF as Furbank's does. It's very apparent that she's writing as a real admirer, whereas I don't really get the same sense with Furbank.
       [Order the paperback U.K. edition from Amazon.co.uk (the U.S. edition is out of print)]

  • King, Francis - E. M. Forster (Literary Lives series)
    Thames and Hudson, 1978
       This is a rather short book (128 pages), but very is interesting and informative nonetheless -- King mentions details that aren't covered in the two other, more ambitious biographies. There are also some wonderful photographs and a convenient timeline of EMF's life. I had a hard time finding this in the U.S.; I found a paperback copy (among some other glorious books) at Heffers a few years ago when I was in Cambridge (England). It is inexpensive and well worth the price.
       [Not readily available from either the U.K. or U.S. Amazon stores]

  • Lago, Mary (editor) - Selected Letters of E. M. Forster: 1921-1970
    Harvard University Press, 1985
       I actually have not seen this two-volume set, but I'm including it here in case anyone is interested.
          [Order the hardcover from Amazon.com]

Criticism - general compilations

  • Trilling, Lionel - E. M. Forster
    New Directions, 1943 or 1964 (revised edition)
       Trilling was really the first to tackle EMF's works (his novels) and publish his opinions into book format. I have a copy of the second edition, and it covers all of the novels (except Maurice), a bit of biographical background, and Forster's own literary criticism. I think this is the most important of any criticism out there, because pretty much any criticism written since Trilling's will refer to his work.
       [Order this from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk]

  • Tambling, Jeremy (editor) - E. M. Forster (New Casebooks series)
    Macmillan Press, 1995
       A very useful and very welcome collection of recent criticism. It compiles twelve essays each written by a different author, as well as a good introduction by Tambling. The essays all range widely in topic, from Forster himself to a specific novel. I won't list all of the articles' names (perhaps at a later date), but two narrowed it down to The Longest Journey, two covered some subject in Howards End, one chose Maurice, and three discussed A Passage to India. This is a rather difficult book to find. I found my copy in England, but I don't think I've actually seen it in U.S. bookstores.
       [Order the paperback from Amazon.co.uk (not available in U.S.)]
       [The hardcover edition is also available (but more expensive) from Amazon.com]

Criticism - Howards End

  • Forster, E. M. - Edited by Paul Armstrong - Howards End (Norton Critical Edition)
    Howards End (Norton) - edited, annotated text and supplementary history and essaysW. W. Norton & Company, 1998
       Obviously, this is a version of the entire text of Howards End (in this case annotated), with an introduction and additional articles edited by Armstrong. If you intend to buy an edition of the novel to read (even if it is just for fun), I highly recommend either this Norton Critical edition or the Bedford edition (listed below). I have both editions and each are worthwhile. I suppose if I had to choose which one is better in terms of the overall package, I would go with the Norton -- it does include a lot of bells and whistles: a nice "Background and Contexts" section which includes some relevant and insightful material (and extracts of material) by Forster himself or by others; and an especially useful "Criticism" section which includes contemporary reviews of the novel, recent critical essays, and even four reviews of the Merchant-Ivory film adaptation (lovely for film buffs like myself!).
       [Order this from Amazon.com (not readily available in U.K.)]

  • Forster, E. M. - Edited by Alistair M. Duckworth - Howards End (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism series)
    Howards End (Bedford) - edited and annotated text with supplementary essaysBedford Books, 1997
       This edition includes the novel (in the form of the 1973 Abinger edition's text, originally edited by Oliver Stallybrass and published by Edward Arnold), as well as a well-prepared collection of five critical essays addressing the novel in some way. Since a very limited number of the Abinger texts were distributed in the U.S., the only likely way to find one would be at a library (I do know that Honnold/Mudd Library in Claremont, California does possess, if I'm not mistaken, all of the volumes of The Abinger Edition of E. M. Forster -- I do know that it has quite a few of the volumes). The Bedford edition might be difficult to obtain locally (I got mine from Amazon), but I have seen the Norton (described above) in large bookstores such as Borders.
       [Order the paperback edition (it's back in print!) from Amazon.com]
       [Order the hardcover edition from Amazon.com]

  • Duckworth, Alistair M. - Howards End: E. M. Forster's House of Fiction (Twayne Masterwork Studies series)
    Howards End literary criticism (Twayne), Alistair DuckworthTwayne Publishers, 1992
       As far as I know, this is the only book (still in print) that is completely devoted to reading Howards End. Duckworth divides it into two chunks: "Literary and Historical Context" and "A Reading," the latter taking up most of the book. It's an insightful and engaging volume, even though I found myself disagreeing with Duckworth at times. I recommend it to any big fan of the novel or to any student looking for a fairly comprehensive overview of many aspects of the novel. :-)
          [This may not be readily available, but you can 'special order' a paperback copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk]

If you are disappointed because I don't have any separate criticism suggestions for A Passage to India or any of EMF's other novels, his essays or short stories, it's because I've concentrated mainly on Howards End and the listed titles are ones I've personally dealt with more than once. I do recommend that you try finding the titles listed under "general compilations," and look through the articles within those books. Also, they both have some good suggestions in the back for "further reading," and the bibliographies (whether for the individual essays or for the entire compilation) should provide good starting points as well.

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Created 3 September 1999 and last modified 16 December 2002, 19:59 PST.
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