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E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf were lifelong friends and literary rivals and reading their novels in tandem illuminates’ key aspects of their enduring achievements.
In this class, we will read two masterpieces of 20th Century English literature: Forster’s Howards End, published in 1910, and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, published in 1927.
The novels are different in form—Woolf’s story of the Ramsey family is a classic of modernism and Forster’s story of the Schlegel sisters an apparently more traditional work of Edwardian fiction—but the themes they share link them in unexpected ways we will explore. In an essay written while she was also working on To the Lighthouse, Woolf said of Howards End: “The characters are extremely real to us. The ordering of the story is masterly ... on a larger battlefield, the struggle goes forward which takes place in all Mr. Forster’s novels—the struggle between the things that matter and the things that do not matter, between reality and sham, between the truth and the lie.”
We will discuss how Woolf measured Forster—and vice versa—and how in Woolf’s own work she moved the struggle forward.
Ideally, participants will read Howards End and To the Lighthouse before the first class.
In the first session (10/22) we will discuss Howards End and also, Virginia Woolf’s essay, “The Novels of E. M. Forster.”
In the second session (10/29) we will discuss To the Lighthouse.
Howards End is out of copyright and available in many editions. If possible, please read the Penguin Classics edition of the novel.
Woolf’s essay on Forster’s novels, published in Atlantic Monthly in 1927, is available here.
To the Lighthouse is published by Harcourt Brace.
If possible, read E. M. Forster’s essay, “Virginia Woolf,” a lecture given at Cambridge in 1942, a year after Woolf’s death. It is reprinted in his collection Two Cheers for Democracy, p. 242-258. Also available here or here.
Programs taking place online:An access link will be emailed to you after purchase.
Programs taking place in our NYC facilities:Please read our safety guidelines before visiting our building.
Programs taking place online and in our NYC facilities:Please select which experience you wish to participate in when registering. Online participants will be emailed an access link after purchase. In-person participants should read our safety guidelines before attending the program.
Bill Goldstein reviews books and interviews authors for NBC Weekend Today in New York …
Bill Goldstein reviews books and interviews authors for NBC Weekend Today in New York. The founding books editor of nytimes.com, he is the author of The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year that Changed Literature. He is writing a biography of Larry Kramer.