the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

quotes: smith on forster

Posted by rigorousm on July 28, 2011

Negative Capability is one of the creakiest concepts in the literary theory closet, but I submit it is time it poked its head through the door again. There is a serious vision here of the truth of human relations; and for Forster and his manydescendants it was complicated and made richer by the Freudian influence. Forster is of the first literary generation to inherit the idea that our very consciousnesses are, at root, faulty and fearful, uncertain and mysterious. Forster ushered in a new era for the English comic novel, one that includes the necessary recognition that the great majority of us are not like an Austen protagonist, would rather not understand ourselves, because it is easier and less dangerous.

The heart has its own knowledge in Forster, and Love is never quite a rational choice, as it was for Austen. Elizabeth Bennet needs to be convinced of Darcy’s virtues. Lucy never sees anything rational to convince her of George’s, unless back-flipping into a pond can be counted virtuous. Elizabeth Bennet’s claim at her epiphanic moment is made to herself. It is: “Until this moment, I never knew myself!” Lucy’s claim concerns another person, Mr Emerson. She explains that he “made her see the whole of everything at once”. The first is a rationalist’s self-awakening. The second is a mystic’s awakening to the world.

— Zadie Smith, “Love, actually”


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