A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E.M. Forster

Placing E.M. Forster’s homosexuality at the core of his identity, Wendy Moffat masterfully unlocks the rich history of the author’s life.  She gives readers extensive insight about Forster’s sexual identity and the impact it had on his work.  Morgan, as Forster was known to his friends, came of age at a time when homosexuality was persecuted; he kept his sexuality a secret to all but his closest friends.  He wrote five novels during his life and was thought to have stopped writing at the age of 45.  It was not until his death nearly fifty years later that an abundance of new writings was uncovered.  There was one novel in particular that Morgan knew could not be published until he died. Maurice painted the world he wished he lived in: a world in which homosexuals could openly fall in love and have a happy ending.

Using letters, journal entries, and interpretations of his fictional works, Moffat carefully unfolds Forster’s emotional and intellectual development, which truly began to foment during his years at King’s College.  Moffat also guides readers through various close friendships and relationships throughout Forster’s life. His relationship with his mother, in particular, was always strained; she expected him to grow up into an assertive man and take the place of his father.  Instead, Forster would always defer to her even as an adult, a fact that greatly annoyed her; he never told her he was a homosexual.  Ultimately, the portrait Moffat paints is that of a sensitive, curious, and imaginative individual.

Although the book is accessible to non-academic audiences, people who have already read some of Forster’s works would probably get the most out of Moffat’s analysis.  She examines numerous passages from his novels, and those who are not familiar with the novels in question may not get as much out of these analysis as someone who has read at least some of Forster’s works.  That said, Moffat has produced a compelling piece of scholarship that not only provides an invaluable exploration of Forster’s innermost thoughts, but an illustration of the culture that so deeply shaped his identity.

Cross-posted at Feminist Review.

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