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Aspects of the Novel

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,188 ratings  ·  165 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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Paul Bryant
They said to me "Do you do Twitter?"

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Riku Sayuj

Towards a Poetics of The Novel

Here is a nice pseudo-scholarly jaunt through what 'aspects' go towards the creation of the Novel-form. Forster isolates a few of these aspects and discusses them, but the the 'rhythm' of the lectures, to use his own terminology, is one of insufficiency. It is as if Forster knows that the framework would collapse ever so easily with the slightest departure from his selected story-line or plot-structure or lecture-structure.

As I said, there is much jauntiness here,
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
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
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,
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
Like many exponents of "literary" fiction, Forster has no appreciation for the craft, difficulty, or 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
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
Max Nemtsov
Как лектор и критик Форстер — вполне балагур и клоун, местами ядовитый, местами остроумный, очень английский (в ушах его лекции звучат почему-то голосом Стивена Фрая). Он в этом курсе лекций пытается наложить свою матрицу на «роман» — зверя, которого за столько веков так и не поймали. И ему в начале ХХ века это поначалу вроде бы удается, когда он полемизирует с той вульгарной «теоретической моделью» чтения, которой нас, я подозреваю, до сих пор по большей части учат в школе: эта «псевдонаука», в ...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
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
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
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
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
As much as I absolutely love some of Forster’s novels, there was something about this book which failed to reach me entirely. In about half of it, he was lucid and original, using text examples that I knew, and lifting their meanings to new heights; introducing his famous ‘flat’ and ‘round’ characters. But in the other half (or so), I felt that he was unnecessarily allegorical and metaphysical, and he lost me at times.

The book is divided into chapters about The Story, People, The Plot, Fantasy,
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
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
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
Richard Jespers
This slim tome was arrived at by transcribing a series of lectures to written form. How fortunate for those students at Cambridge University’s Trinity College to hear one of the foremost authors of their time. Even today, his voice seems so fresh, authoritative.

Some nuggets I gleaned from the book:


“We are all like Scheherazade’s husband, in that we want to know what happens next. That is universal and that is why the backbone of a novel has to be a story” (27).

So daily life, whatever it ma
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
Principles and systems may suit other forms of art, but they cannot be applicable here—or if applied their results must be subjected to re-examination. And who is the re-examiner? Well, I am afraid it will be the human heart, it will be this man-to-man business, justly suspect in its cruder forms. The final test of a novel will be our affection for it, as it is the test of our friends, and of anything else which we cannot define. Sentimentality—to some a worse demon than chronology—will lurk in ...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
Lam Yuen Ting
I personally loved this non-fiction work which- besides being witty, hilarious, sharp, gentle, insightful, and very clever- in other words, just like E.M. Forster's usual writing, it also embodies the values he held dear. It is obvious he loved people, loved relationships, loved the art of writing, loved striving for excellence in craft, and loved how art should serve a purpose of being a vehicle and mirror for examining society and oneself. Aspects of the Novel generously shares tips on writing ...more
This book consists of a series of lecutres that E.M. Forster gave in the spring of 1927. Its style is modest and willing to be doubted. He is not a theorizer, nor does he speak through invented concepts, but through plain English. He is convinced that the novel is an activity and a mode in which we connect, or fail to connect, through our dispositions above our intellect:

The final test of a novel will be our affection for it, as it is the test of our friends, and of anything else which we canno
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.
Gina Lyle
E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel had the potential to make some very important and interesting points about how we categorise and understand the novel. In fairness, it contains very simple and helpful definitions of plot and story. Forster tells us that the two are distinguished by causality.
Unfortunately, the man is a total prick. The very personal, informal style of the guide reveals how hugely biased, defensive and uninformed Forster is. He believes only the intelligent with good memories
This is a series of lectures that E.M. Forster gave at Cambridge University. He was not trying to present a well-organized theory, but to explore certain aspects of the novel that had caught his attention. His insights are sometimes quite illuminating and unique, such as in his discussion of round characters vs. flat characters, or his evaluation of the overall aesthetic appeal of a Henry James novel. At times, however, his ideas are a complete muddle, especially in his attempt to define the tra ...more
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
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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 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.” 110 likes
“We move between two darknesses.” 23 likes
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