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Aspects of the Novel

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Aspects of the Novel.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    E.M. Forster(Author)

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Forster’s lively, informed originality and wit have made this book a classic. Avoiding the chronological approach of what he calls “pseudoscholarship,” he freely examines aspects all English-language novels have in common: story, people, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm. Index.

There are all kinds of books out there purporting to explain that odd phenomenon the novel. Sometimes it's hard to know whom they're are for, exactly. Enthusiastic readers? Fellow academics? Would-be writers? Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster's 1927 treatise on the "fictitious prose work over 50,000 words" is, it turns out, for anyone with the faintest interest in how fiction is made. Open at random, and find your attention utterly sandbagged. Collection of literary lectures by E.M. Forster, published in 1927. For the purposes of his study, Forster defines the novel as "any fictitious prose work over 50,000 words." The seven aspects offered for discussion are the story, people, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm. The author compares the form and texture of the novel to those of a symphony. As for subject, he expects the work "to reveal the hidden life at its source." Human nature, he concludes, is the novelist's necessary preoccupation. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

3.2 (5303)
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Book details

  • PDF | 192 pages
  • E.M. Forster(Author)
  • Mariner Books (September 14, 1956)
  • English
  • 4
  • Literature & Fiction

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Review Text

  • By The Reader on July 17, 2006

    I've tried for the fourth time to read this book. For the fourth time, I had to give up half-way. This book is just too dense for my simple mind.I am sure that it contains more substance than most books on writing (hence, the generous two stars), but the packaging and, maybe, relevance compelled me, once more, to use the time I would on it to some other book more suitable for my Philistine tastes.

  • By Darlene S. Wood on April 11, 2015

    I found this work useful as a snapshot in time, as it were, of a skilled novelist's perspective on the novel as an art form. He mentions many works with which good writers should be familiar. But his tone is didactic and judgmental. I found myself skimming the book.

  • By Ralph White on December 23, 2016

    This must have been a very fun romp when Forster unveiled it as a series of lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, nine years after the First World War ended and eleven before the Second one started. In illustrating examples of specific writing techniques Forster refers to easily fifty books, authors, and characters (in 175 pages, mind you). When would the young men in his audience have had the opportunity to acquaint themselves with a fraction of them? How many would still have a place set for them at the family table twenty years hence? This slender volume is a piece of history itself; more a running critique of two hundred years of British literature than it is a manual of craft. God how I’d like to see the attendance sheet for those lectures to see how many of his students profited from Forster’s observations and are known today.What will you learn from this book? For one you will learn Forster’s distinction between “story” and “plot.” FYI, stories read as follows: “then this, then this, then this…” Plot reads as follows: “This caused this, which caused this.” Okay, that’s two chapters. Then we have two aspects of character. The first is what we now call the character’s interior life, and Forster calls his “secret life.” This is something known to the author and revealed as organically and realistically as possible in order to seduce the reader into the character’s mind and to intimately share his understanding of things. The second aspect of character is a Forster neologism, round versus flat characters. In a nutshell, flat characters are predictable and round characters surprise us. This perception of characters being more interesting to readers because of their dimensionality was an original insight of Forster’s.Frankly, dear reader, (a familiarity Forster strongly discourages) the chapters on fantasy and prophesy may be skipped. He was after all being paid for a series of lectures and though he’d covered the topic in five chapters, he recognized the billing opportunity of carrying on for another four. In fairness the last is a three and a half page conclusion. It basically says that we may learn much from past masters but only creative new insights, new characters, and new craft will delight tomorrow’s readers. Future readers, that would be us, will have higher expectations.

  • By The Giant on February 2, 2016

    Sudden death would have been preferable to reading this cover to cover. Okay, I'm exagerating somewhat. Lets just say it is a very tedious read. I'm positive there are some nuggets of truth to help the aspiring writer contained within the 174 pages, I just couldn't stomach the mining involved to realize those riches. Sorry, one star from your humble reviewer.

  • By Mitch on July 6, 2015

    E. M. Forster is clearly a better writer than a lecturer on story theory or critical analysis of literature.I bought this book with the hope of reading some practical advise on writing. There are a few points worthy of quotation, but these are widely separated by long passages of patronising fax-modesty and pretentious twaddle that consistent obfuscated to the point of aggravation.

  • By Martha on August 1, 2016

    Written weird. Had to look up every other word, which is ok, but sure slowed the reading process. Still never really understood a single word it said.

  • By Bernard M. Patten on March 13, 2010

    Of course, I allow myself the luxury of re-reading this masterpiece every year and have been so doing since 1988. Why? To hone my skills as a writer and for the pleasure of reading a real novelist comment on the real novel. The real novel is not a tidy piece of art. Forbid it almighty gods. Oh no, it is a piece of organized chaos like War and Peace. And so it follows that the real discussion of the art of the novel need not be a tidy organized piece of art. Each time I have read this work I get something new and important out of it. That says more about it than it does about me for that is the mark of a real classic - benefits of re-reading. The distinction of story from plot is interesting and real: A story is the narration of events in time and a plot explains the events or gives reasons for them. The King dies and then the Queen dies. That's a story. The King dies and then the Queen dies of grief. That's the plot as it explains why the Queen died. The discussion of character is somewhat dated but classical. You should know it if you are writing fiction. Characters are round or flat according to Forster. Round characters can surprise us in convincing ways. Flat characters don't surprise us. But what of characters that surprise us but not in a convincing way? They are according to Forster flat characters who are pretentding to be round. If he were able to revise this appraisal, Forster might say characters are flat or round and everything in between according to the needs of the novel at that particular time and place. Besides the advice about what novels should do and be, the Aspects also includes a great deal of philosophical advice: "If human nature does alter it will be because individuals manage to look at themselves in a new way. Here and there people - a very few people, but a few novelists are among them - are trying to do this. Every institution and vested interest is against such as search: organized religion, the state, ..." The discussion of rhythm in fiction is excellent and significant and probably would be replace by a discussion of scene and summary in modern writing schools. I see no discussion of realistic presentation (based on detailed description) or discussion on psychological realism or moral realism based on plot and actions. So the novel has progressed the way Forster hoped it would and that implies that humanitiy has progressed as well. For humanity's greatest hope is in the novel for it is the novel (not painting and certainly not music) that shows us our inner life. If we don't know what's wrong there is little hope for correction. And if we don't know what's right there is no hope period.


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