E. M. Forster, Lionel trilling, and the American turn, 1942-1953

Stuart Christie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Drawing upon previously unpublished correspondence, my essay documents how the transatlantic crossing of E. M. Forster’s literary corpus, from a Europe devastated by war to America, challenges one of Perry Anderson’s key claims about the postwar “contraflow” between the United States and England: that the sea change “modified Anglo more than American culture” (English Questions 204). Rather, the New York intellectual and literary critic, Lionel Trilling, succeeded in resituating Forster’s fiction cogently in terms of exigencies recognizable to a mass American readership in wartime and after, thereby securing Forster’s after-life in the American academy. Additionally, Trilling’s success imparted scale to the transatlantic turn, by making Forster’s newly transformed body of work amenable to ideological re-export, back again across the Atlantic, to England. As such, the pairing offered a historically significant corrective, during the decade following Pearl Harbor, to more reactionary critical formations within literary Modernism, at a time when both T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound had returned to nationalist bases when endorsing literature as a vehicle for culture. I conclude by affirming that the Forster-Trilling transatlantic combination served uniquely sociohistorical, interpretively occasional, and yet critically significant scalars beyond the nationalizing function of English literature and its criticism at that time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalWenshan Review of Literature and Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory

User-Defined Keywords

  • E. M. Forster
  • Liberal humanism
  • Lionel trilling
  • Scale


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