Aspects of the Novel
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Aspects of the Novel

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,892 ratings  ·  148 reviews

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.

Hardcover, 141 pages
Published 2004 by Atlantic Publishers (first published 1927)
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They said to me "Do you do Twitter?"

I said no, I have Goodreads.

They said "What about Facebook?"

I said no, I have Goodreads - this is funny, someone said it should be called Bookface.

They didn't get that.

They said "Do you have a blog?"

I said well, no, I do Goodreads.

They looked at each other, and then they said "We heard you don't even have a mobile phone."

I said yeah, you heard right.

They said "Don't tell us, you have Goodreads."

I said "Now you're making fun of me."

They said "Huh, we don't need...more
This fascinating book is a series of lectures (and, taking its tone from that format, is delightfully conversational) that Forster gave at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1927. In his “introductory” he makes this statement, “The final test of a novel (is) our affection for it.” He proposes to discuss several aspects of the novel.

The most common denominator of all novels is this: the novel tells a story. This alone does not make a novel good, but without a story a novel cannot exist. Therefore, ti...more
In this set of lectures, Forster turns the novel into a living, breathing force, something that can’t be tamped down by simple categorization but instead must be approached cautiously, in full awareness of the essential ambiguities which give the form its vitality.

He begins by situating the novel ontologically somewhere between history and poetry. The novel stands both upon the factual terrain native to history but also borrows from the expansionary, symbolic vistas of poetry to build its own u...more
Not exactly a how-to guide or a critique, Forster very basically explains different aspects of the novel through a series of lectures he gave in the late 1920s. A lot of the books that he refers to I’ve never read and probably never will (Les Faux Monnayeurs, not so much interested in), but he usually includes enough detail of the story or character that you get his point.
The tone is pretty casual, which makes it an easy read and while the aspects he covers are very basic - the story, the plot,...more
Mohit  Parikh
E M Forester is a remarkable man. Astute. And that's what makes Aspects of the Novel so compelling.

The book is a compilation of lectures, delivered in Trinity College, Cambridge in 1927, on what he considers universal aspects of the novel: story, characters, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm.
The lectures are unique and insightful. Had I not lost my book immediately after finishing it I would have loved to quote several of his shrewd, profound and appealing conclusions here.
What stil...more
Linda Robinson
There is a Note at the front of this edition (1954) that sets the tone for the remainder: a series of lectures at Trinity College Cambridge. One longish paragraph that, like a proper appetizer, creates a hunger for what will follow. Foster tells us that words like 'of course,' 'curiously enough,' and 'so to speak,' have been left where each appeared which may distress the sensitive reader, but asks the reader to remember that 'if these words were removed others, perhaps more distinguished, might...more
E.M. Forster's "Aspects of the Novel," originally a series of lectures delivered at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1927, is a conversational, insightful discussion of plot, characters, rhythm and other components of the novel. Forster's humility -- mocking his own abilities as a critic, poking fun at his attachment to the book "The Swiss Family Robinson," and occasionally alluding to the ramshackle nature of the lectures -- is particularly winning.

The lectures purposely avoid looking at the deve...more
Like many exponents of "literary" fiction, Forster has no appreciation for the craft, difficulty, and art of story. Consider this ridiculous observation:

"Curiosity is one of the lowest of the human faculties. You will have noticed in daily life that when people are inquisitive they nearly always have bad memories and are usually stupid at bottom. The man who beings by asking you how many brothers and sisters you have, is never a sympathetic character, and if you meet him in a year’s time he will...more
A bit repetitive but worth a read. Forster thinks you should read Tolstoy. And ultimately he comes to the conclusion that novels tell stories. Pretty cool huh? But i'm joking, this was actually an interesting read and made some interesting points. He mentions Tolstoy a lot and basically thinks that no English writer has rivalled the Russians in all their immortal world-encompassing universal greatness. He lays out the different aspects in a lecture-conversational-style (from plot to people to fa...more
Forster's series of lectures on the novel contained moments of brilliance and insight that make me glad that I picked up the book. The first three or four lectures were much more compelling than the last set of lectures, in part because I just haven't read enough to appreciate all of his analyses. But I also feel that the first half of the book contained more universal themes, whereas the second half seemed to fall into topics that were of great interest to Forster but perhaps not as relevant to...more
Jessica Colund
For the first 30 pages, I was surprisingly annoyed with Forster. But for the rest of the book, I wished I were sitting in an Oxford pub with him, having a lively exchange of ideas. I certainly don’t agree with all of his opinions (such as when he completely disregards novelists’ sociocultural situations—though he describes his idea beautifully: “Empires fall, votes are accorded, but to those people writing in the circular room it is the feel of the pen between their fingers that matters most”),...more
Michael Ryan
I like E.M. Forster novels in the same way I like fancy restaurants.

I appreciate them, but more often than not they are outside of my comfort zone, I don't really fit in with them, and I think they are overpriced and overrated.

Reading this book you get the sense that E.M. Forster is a bit of an opinionated prick. The saving grace here is that he definitely has the skills to back up being an opinionated prick. But I found the book useless as a guide to writing or as a portal into the mind of th...more
Mohamed Elshawaf

ليس من الجيد دائما أن تنقل محاضرة مسموعة داخل قاعة جامعية إلى كتاب، فلغة

المحاضرة تختلف عن لغة الكتاب ناهيك عن أن التواصل بن المحاضر والمستمع

يختلف كثيرا عن التواصل بين الكاتب والقاريء، واعتماد المحاضر على أساليب

معينة لتوصيل وجهة نظره للمستمع يُفقد الكتاب الكثير من النواحى الضرورية

لاكتمال بنيته ككتاب.

النقطة الأخرى وهى الفارقة؛ أن المحاضر، إدوارد فورستر، يعتمد فى دراسته

لأركان الرواية على مجموعة كبيرة من الروايات الإنجليزية والفرنسية والروسية

وغيرها، تتفاوت شهرتها بين المحدوية وذائعة الصيت، وهذ
Feb 22, 2012 Gwen rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: psuedoscholars, Forster completists
Shelves: non-fiction
While I suppose it was worthwhile to read the various opinions of E.M. Forster on the old great authors of English literature, I don't really feel that he had very much unique to say about the actual aspects of novel writing.

I think that the most unique, interesting statement in the entire book was in the introduction at Ch 1. Forster feels that authors should not be judged by the chronological categorization of literature over time, but rather be viewed as though they were all simultaneously cr...more
Having read a number of these types of books by now, what strikes one first is the fact that we live in a very different time than E. M. Forster did. Mind you, these were oral, casual lectures about the novel, not held to the same standards of stylistic discipline that literary criticism is, but still, the way Forster is fast and loose with his opinions is striking. Tolstoy is simply the best novelist and War & Peace, the best novel ever. Period. There are only four “prophetic” novelists to...more
Delightful read, (feel as though I am listening to Forster lecture!) "Books have to be read . . . It is the only way of discovering what they contain." His lectures focus on story, people, the plot, fantasy, prophecy and pattern & rhythm. He talks in great detail about round and flat characters, stating that Dickens characters are flat (including David Copperfield) and points out his favorite round characters by Austen, Eliot, Trollope, Melville, Woolfe and Hemingway (only his male character...more
Deborah Biancotti
Hilarious and kinda - dare I say - quaint, Forster is a man with some outspoken views. Some of them, I can't quite come at (like, referring to Austen as a 'small' writer). Some of them cracked me up (like describing James' characters as being, if not dead, then at least gutted). Particularly found his chapter on plotting worthwhile. Also interested in his perceptions of readers, & the sense that readers have a responsibility for their reactions, by bringing the best of their intelligence, sa...more
Bad Horse
Apr 29, 2014 Bad Horse rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers, writers
Shelves: writing
The number of books appropriate to a writer of a given skill level is proportionate to the number of writers at that skill level. We therefore have hundreds of books from places like Writers Digest with rules and tips that are helpful to beginning writers (though often harmful to better writers), and hundreds of books full of encouragement and inspiration for the kind of writers who need encouragement to start writing rather than an intervention to get them to stop writing now and then. But ther...more
Originally a series of lectures presented at a university or something
Forster announces at the beginning of the book that he is going to dispense with the common chronological survey of the English novel. He imagines that all the English novelists are sitting in a room, at the same time writing their fiction. He goes on to talk about "the story" and "people" which contains the famous division of character between flat characters and round ones. In "the plot" he gives his famous example of the ki...more
E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel reads like a great conversation about books over tea. I recommend it to anybody who likes rhetorical devices and subtly shifting opinions.

One take away lesson: the Fantastic - Prophetic Axis... i.e. the fantastic asks something extra of the reader and the prophetic asks something extra of the character... discuss.
Let's get this out of the way immediately: I've never read an E.M.Forster novel, only his short stories. It might seem odd, then, that I chose to read his guide to good novel writing. A bit like taking a cookery class from Jamie Oliver having enjoyed one of his mince pies. Fortunately it wouldn't really have mattered whose guide to novel writing I read since I'm not planning on writing a novel.

That being said… I was in Manchester a few months ago to give a talk at the University. While catching...more
Adam Wieland
"Aspects of the Novel" is a collection of lectures given by E M. Forster in 1927 at Trinity College, Cambridge. The lectures offer plainly spoken literary criticism and discussion of 'the novel' aimed at a general audience. In the lectures he discusses various aspects of the novel, such as 'The Story', 'People', 'The Plot', 'Fantasy', 'Prophecy', 'Pattern and Rhythm' and references many books that were then current or in the recent past.

I hired this book out of the library because I am a writer...more
Boy, Forster really loves War and Peace.
Perry Hall
This collection of lectures Forster gave at Cambridge Univ in 1927 is published in book form and provides a decent look at how a novelist of some critical acclaim a century ago viewed the Aspects of the Novel, both from a reader's and a writer's perspective.

Forster defines the novel as "any fictitious prose work over 50,000 words." The seven aspects he discusses are story, people, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm. He compares the novel's texture and form to those of a symphony and be...more
C.G. Fewston

Even though E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel was first written and used for lectures inside the classroom at Trinity College, Cambridge, I cannot help but to imagine sitting in a stuffy classroom, loosening my collar, briefly staring out the window onto a sunny spring day in 1927 only to be drawn back to a powerful sermon concerning the craft of writing, given by a professional who knew what he was talking about. For some readers this book may be considered archaic; I consider it anachronisti...more
I was inspired to finally sit down and read this when, in the midst of my latest Isherwood read, I determined with glee that I was two degrees separated from Forster. And, yes, I'm the odd one out for several reasons, but E. M. Forster-->Christopher Isherwood-->Edmund White-->Me is a pretty exciting lineup to be part of.

How great would it have been to have been present at these lectures? Or, maybe not. Because today I can dogear pages and make notes in the margins and type up this revie...more
This is a series of lectures given at Harvard in 1927, and it isn't about the development of the novel through time but more about a philosophy of what a novel is and what constitutes one. It is not a how-to book either, although the insights Forster gives into the novel are great to keep in mind when reading a novel and trying to understand it. (I know I'm going to try keeping it in mind when attempting book reviews.)

This book is divided into sections, each dealing with a different aspect. Thes...more
Forster, E(dward). M(organ). ASPECTS OF THE NOVEL. (1927). *****. This is a marvelous book that I wish I had known about when taking courses, years ago, called things like, “The Modern American Novel,” or “Nineteenth Century American Literature,” or “English Literature in the 20th Century,” where the usual program was to read about 100 required books (for each!) and then to write papers with assigned themes. The themes were usually of the sort: “How does Melville compare with GadAbout Gaddis, Th...more
If you've been working your way through academic papers, college textbooks, etc, then you will truly love reading this clearly written book on how the inner technical aspects of how novels are created. For anyone curious as to how writers go about their work, or if you're just looking for inspiration from a seasoned author, I highly recommend reading Aspects of the Novel. You may not agree with all of the statements but I'm sure they will be illuminating and help you formulate your own opinion o...more
Jul 13, 2009 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: LeAnn
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. As other reviewers have noted, this was a series of lectures, and therefore should NOT be considered a guide on "how to write a novel." If, however, you have a background in English literature and want to write a novel, then you may find this book an interesting exercise in critical analysis.

I found the sections on story, people (parts 1 and 2), and plot thought-provoking and insightful. What made these sections most interesting were how Forster used exampl...more
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Edward Morgan Forster, generally published as E.M. Forster, was an novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. His humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: "Only connect".

He had five...more
More about E.M. Forster...
A Room with a View Howards End A Passage to India Maurice Where Angels Fear to Tread

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“Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wishes to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.” 89 likes
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