Social Non-Conformists in Forster’s Italy: Otherness and the Enlightened English Tourist.


  • Suzanne Roszak Yale University


E.M. Forster, Italian culture, social non-conformity, ethnicity, tourism


Recent years have seen increasing attention to E.M. Forster’s approach to issues of race and ethnicity, including how Forster’s oeuvre advances problematic views of foreign cultures. Nevertheless, the criticism on Forster’s Italian novels has lagged behind, with readers continuing to emphasize how Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) and A Room with a View (1908) valorize Italian culture and undermine prejudiced assumptions of English cultural superiority. This article considers the portrayal of English social non-conformists in Forster’s Italy, individuals whose interactions with Italian people and landscapes inspire them to develop new ways of approaching class and gender as well as nation and ethnicity. I reveal that while the Italian novels use this trope of the non-conformist to stress a foreign culture’s power to generate reform at home, they also overemphasize the cultural difference that separates Italy from England, indulging in primitivist, patronizing depictions of Italian spaces and people. The novels also exhibit a problematic narrative impulse in sacrificing their Italian characters for the benefit of Englishmen and Englishwomen, imagining the lives and especially the deaths of Italians as a tool for enlightening the English tourist. This discontinuity in Forster exemplifies the persistent essentialization of Italy in twentieth-century Anglo-American fiction.

Author Biography

Suzanne Roszak, Yale University

Suzanne Roszak is a PhD candidate in comparative literature at Yale University. She specializes in multi-ethnic American literature, with a particular interest in African American, Caribbean American, and Italian American fiction. Her first article, on Arthur Miller and Maryse Condé, appeared in Comparative Literature in 2014.