ABSTRACT

Drawing upon previously unpublished correspondence, my essay documents how the transatlantic crossing of E. M. Forster’s literary corpus, from a Europe devastated by war to America, challenges one of Perry Anderson’s key claims about the postwar “contraflow” between the United States and England: that the sea change “modified Anglo more than American culture” (English Questions 204). Rather, the New York intellectual and literary critic, Lionel Trilling, succeeded in resituating Forster’s fiction cogently in terms of exigencies recognizable to a mass American readership in wartime and after, thereby securing Forster’s after-life in the American cademy. Additionally, Trilling’s success imparted scale to the transatlantic turn, by making Forster’s newly transformed body of work amenable to ideological re-export, back again across the Atlantic, to England. As such, the pairing offered a historically
significant corrective, during the decade following Pearl Harbor, to more reactionary critical formations within literary Modernism, at a time when both T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound had returned to nationalist bases when endorsing literature as a vehicle for culture. I conclude by affirming that the Forster-Trilling transatlantic combination served uniquely sociohistorical, interpretively occasional, and yet critically significant scalars beyond the nationalizing function of English literature and its criticism at that time.

KEYWORDS: E. M. Forster, Lionel Trilling, liberal humanism, scale