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Forster, E. M. (1879-1970)  
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"The Other Boat"

The longest of Forster's gay stories is "The Other Boat," which was completed in 1958, when Forster was almost eighty years old. The tale recounts the struggle to fuse into wholeness the divided personality of Lionel March, a young army captain. The struggle comes to a crisis in his relationship with a sensuous, classless, effeminate youth named Cocoa, "a subtle, supple boy who belonged to no race and always got what he wanted."

Lionel's search for wholeness is complicated by his confused identity and made especially difficult by the conflict between his secret love for Cocoa and his self-definition as a member of a racist society.

The story's violent conclusion, in which Lionel murders Cocoa and then commits suicide, expresses the young officer's inability to face either a life led contrary to prevailing currents or one without tribal identity. Unlike Cocoa, he lacks the heroism to achieve wholeness. "The Other Boat" explores with profound insight the psychological effects of racism and homophobia.

Forster as Essayist and Moral Presence

In the final decades of his life, even as his reputation as a novelist grew with every novel that he did not write, Forster abandoned fiction and became a superb essayist, thoughtful critic and biographer, and a shrewd analyst of politics and culture. As a dogged defender of civil liberties, he protested the persecution of gay books and authors.

For example, when Radclyffe Hall's lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness was prosecuted as obscene in 1928, he persuaded his Bloomsbury friends Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey to join him in defending it, though at the trial no expert testimony was permitted.

As England's most thoughtful exponent of liberal humanism, Forster in his later years became a significant moral presence, a liberal conscience that countered the excesses of left and right alike. Especially for young gay writers in the 1930s like Christopher Isherwood, W. H. Auden, William Plomer, and J. R. Ackerley, he functioned as an uncle figure, a symbol of committed humanism and responsible intelligence.

He summed up his beliefs in a series of memorable essays, most notably in "What I Believe" (1938), in which he announced his abiding faith in personal relations and individualism. He bravely asserted that "if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."

In this credo, he also declared his belief in "an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky," who, he asserted, "represent the true human condition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos."

Himself a member of this spiritual aristocracy, Forster deserves a special place in the gay and lesbian literary heritage. He was not only one of the finest English novelists of the twentieth century but also a tireless defender of humane values.

Claude J. Summers

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Adams, Stephen D. The Homosexual as Hero in Contemporary Fiction. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1980.

Cavaliero, Glen. A Reading of E. M. Forster. London: Macmillan, 1979.

Colmer, John. E. M. Forster: The Personal Voice. London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975.

Das, G. K. and John Beer, eds. E. M. Forster: A Human Exploration. Centenary Essays. New York: New York University Press, 1979.

Ebbatson, Roger. The Evolutionary Self: Hardy, Forster, Lawrence. Brighton, Sussex: Harvester Press, 1982.

Fletcher, John. "Forster's Self-erasure: Maurice and the Scene of Masculine Love." Sexual Sameness: Textual Differences in Lesbian and Gay Writing. London and New York: Routledge, 1992. 64-90.

Furbank, P. N. E. M. Forster: A Life. Volume One: The Growth of the Novelist 1879-1914. London: Secker and Warburg, 1977. Volume Two: Polycrates' Ring 1714-1970. London: Secker and Warburg, 1978. Rpt. 2 vols. in 1. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978.

Herz, Judith Scherer. "From Myth to Scripture: An Approach to Forster's Later Short Fiction." English Literature in Transition 24 (1981): 206-212.

_____. The Short Narratives of E. M. Forster. London: Macmillan, 1988.

_____, and Robert K. Martin. E. M. Forster: Centenary Revaluations. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982.

King, Dixie. "The Influence of Forster's Maurice on Lady Chatterley's Lover." Contemporary Literature 23 (1982): 65-82.

Levine, June Perry. "The Tame in Pursuit of the Savage: The Posthumous Fiction of E. M. Forster." Publications of the Modern Language Association 99 (1984): 72-88.

Malek, James. "Persona, Shadow, and Society: A Reading of Forster's "The Other Boat." Studies in Short Fiction 14 (1977): 21-27.

Martin, Robert K. "Edward Carpenter and the Double Structure of Maurice." Journal of Homosexuality 8.3-4 (1983): 35-46. Rpt. in Literary Visions of Homosexuality. Stuart Kellogg, ed. New York: Haworth Press, 1983. 35-46.

_____, and George Piggford, eds. Queer Forster. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Page, Norman. E. M. Forster's Posthumous Fiction. English Literary Studies Monograph Series 10. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria, 1977.

Rahman, Tariq. "E. M. Forster and the Break Away from the Ephebophilic Literary Tradition." Études Anglaises 40 (1987): 267-278.

Summers, Claude J. E. M. Forster. New York: Ungar, 1983.

_____. E. M. Forster: A Guide to Research. New York: Garland, 1991.

_____. Gay Fictions: Wilde to Stonewall. New York: Continuum, 1990.

Wilde, Alan. Art and Order: A Study of E. M. Forster. New York: New York University Press, 1964.

_____, ed. Critical Essays on E. M. Forster. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985.

_____. Modernism, Postmodernism, and the Ironic Imagination. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981.


    Citation Information
    Author: Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: Forster, E. M.  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 24, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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