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  • 2018dakkakphd

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Modernity, mobility, and materiality in E. M. Forster’s fiction

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Unpublished
Publication date2018
Number of pages271
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Through attending to processual and performative human-world relations, this thesis reveals embodied activities as central to developing and showing people’s identities and social relations in E. M. Forster’s fiction. The materiality of the world is prevalent in his literary works where the textures of places, objects, and things are meticulously described. Places are depicted as dynamic and affective entities that are experienced physically and sensorially through movement. Their materiality is fundamental to the formation of human identity, habit, and nature. Acknowledging embodied interactions as essential to shaping human character unsettles common perceptions of Forster’s evocation of rurality as a celebration of pre-modern Englishness against the inevitable advancement of modernity.
Forster’s approach to modernity engages, this thesis argues, with changes wrought by the modern technologies of transport and communication that dominated human life in the early twentieth century. His fiction responds to the ways in which these technologies altered the material textures of the world and how people move across space. Privileging the sense of vision over the other human proximal senses, these technologies changed the quality of spatial and personal encounters, a chief focus for Forster’s concerns about modernity. His fiction reveals that transforming the way humans interact with the nonhuman stimulates a change in aesthetic and moral values. Relocating Forster’s humanism from the ideal to the embodied and the material makes his ideas and fiction pertinent to twenty-first century debates in material philosophy and thought.