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E. M. Forster–James Ivory: Howards End


Catherine Lanone and Laurent Mellet

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1This issue of Études britanniques contemporaines includes a selection of papers delivered at the symposium ‘“Only Connect”: Reconsidering E.M. Forster and James Ivory’s Howards End’, a joint conference organised in December 2019 by Catherine Lanone and Laurent Mellet, involving the SEAC, the University Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle, the University Toulouse 2-Jean Jaurès, and the Ecole Normale Supérieure. Fifty years after E.M. Forster’s death in 1970, and twenty-eight years after the novel was adapted to the screen, the timely comparison between the film and the novel offers a fruitful ground to reflect back on the representation of the social and cultural fabric of Edwardian England, as new critical directions help to re-assess Forster’s aesthetics and reconsider the historical and aesthetic significance of Ivory’s adaptation. Thus, Marie Laniel offers a fresh view of Forster’s connection to the classics by tracing the importance of Ovidian metamorphosis in Forster’s work, revealing how the motif of flight and the importance of the tree highlight new modes of relationality and sketch the line of flight of feminine desire. Christian Gutleben explores Forster’s aesthetic of impurity, stressing the rupture with social determinism embodied by the heir/illegitimate baby, as well as the crossing of genres and traditions aiming to create a hybrid literary mode. Andrew Thacker returns to his landmark analysis of the modernist exploration of circulation and motorcars in Howards End from an ecocritical perspective; he reconsiders Leonard Bast’s commitment to walking, and considers that Howards End hints at the mania for rubber shares and foreshadows today’s petrofiction. The next articles all show that the film adaptation should be analysed beyond the scope of Heritage studies. Dennis Tredy, for instance, offers tantalizing glimpses of the scenes planned by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (that were or were not accepted by Ivory), showing that she made Margaret the film’s central figure but also turned Leonard into a more complex character, a reaccentuation engaging with today’s response to the struggling working-class character, but also suggesting innovative avenues for adaptation studies themselves. Christophe Gelly contends that Ivory’s adaptation should not be deemed reverential, as it asserts its narrative autonomy, opting for unusual editing that goes against the grain of period pieces and evinces a more modern aesthetic than what is usually contended. Jean-François Baillon also argues that Ivory revisits nineteenth-century visual devices like the zoetrope to offer striking metafilmic momentsand plays on presence and absence to create haunting effects and affects, some of which being undoubtedly textual and literary. These new perspectives suggest a specific aesthetic of transition in the history of British fiction as well as in adaptation studies. 

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Electronic reference

Catherine Lanone and Laurent Mellet, IntroductionÉtudes britanniques contemporaines [Online], 58 | 2020, Online since 01 March 2020, connection on 23 January 2022. URL:; DOI:

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Catherine Lanone

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Laurent Mellet

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Études britanniques contemporaines est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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