Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

By John Rodden | Go to book overview

11
“A Forster Revival,” The Nation
August 1943

Morton Dauwen Zabel

Morton Dauwen Zabel (1901–64), who taught English at Loyola University in Chicago and the University of Chicago, was a distinguished literary critic. He also published four volumes of poetry and was an editor of Poetry.

Best known for his literary criticism, Zabel was the editor of Literary Opinion in America: Essays Illustrating the Status, Methods, and Problems of Criticism in the United States (1937), which went through several editions. (Trilling contributed two essays to Zabel’s 1951 edition: revised versions of his 1940 Partisan Review piece on Vernon Parrington and of his 1940 Kenyon Review essay on Freud.) Zabel also wrote Craft and Character: Texts, Method, and Vocation in Modern Fiction (1957), an essay collection that includes his flattering review of The Middle of the Journey. Chiefly a scholar of modern fiction, Zabel edited volumes on Dickens, Conrad, James, and Melville.

The least expected literary event of the season is one of its happiest and most inspiriting—a revival of the fiction of E. M. Forster. Alfred A. Knopf reissues “Where Angels Fear to Tread” and “Howard’s End” ($2.50 each); New Directions reprints “The Longest Journey” and “A Room with a View” ($ 1 each); with “A Passage to India” already in the Modern Library, all five of Forster’s novels are thus restored to circulation. To accompany them comes the best full study of Forster’s work and ideas yet written, by Lionel Trilling. The event, at this particular moment of literary and intellectual crisis, becomes more than a literary occasion: it takes on the force of a public service.

One would like to argue that a general enthusiasm for these brilliant but still neglected novels requires no critical instruction. They are among the wittiest, most original, most acutely stimulating and entertaining books of our time. They adhere to an established tradition of English comedy

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