Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lecture 8

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Wk 4 - Thurs (14/8), 3-4 pm lecture: HSB2

E. M. Forster: A Passage to India (1924) -


Plots are for dead people.
– Tracey Slaughter

We are to visualize the English novelists not as floating down the stream [of time] ... but as seated together in a room, a circular room, a sort of British museum reading room, all writing their novels simultaneously …
– E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (1927)

Extracts from Aristotle’s Poetics:

The plot … is the first principle and as it were the soul of tragedy: character comes second.

Plots … must have length but must be easily taken in by the memory.

A plot does not have unity … simply because it deals with a single hero. Many and indeed innumerable things happen to an individual, some of which do not go to make up any unity …

The plot … must represent a single piece of action and the whole of it; and the component incidents must be so arranged that if one of them be transposed or removed, the unity of the whole is dislocated and destroyed. For if the presence or absence of a thing makes no visible difference, then it is not an integral part of the whole.

Aristotle’s Poetics - Terminology:

Imitation [mimesis] is “an instinct implanted in man from childhood … through imitation [he] learns his earliest lessons …”

"Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity."

Reversal [peripeteia] is “a change of the situation into the opposite …”

Recognition [anagnorisis] is “a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing either friendship or hatred in those who are destined for good fortune or ill.”

Purgation [catharsis] is “giving relief to overcharged feeling …”

Extracts from Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Philosophy of Composition":
It is only with the denouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation ...

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. … I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or … the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?”

Having chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can be best wrought by incident or tone – whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone – afterward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect.

The Marabar Caves

A Passage to India:

  • Professor Godbole describes the caves on pp.83-84.
  • Chapter XII (pp.125-27): a geological account of their formation and character.
  • pp. 143-45 - Mrs Moore's experience of being almost suffocated inside the first cave.
  • p.149: Adela Quested's tactless question about the number of Aziz's wives, followed by his ducking into a cave for a cigarette.
  • Chapter XVI - Aziz's observation of the scene after Adela has disappeared.
  • Chapter XXII - After hearing everyone else's views, we are finally allowed to meet Adela and hear her own ambiguous account of what took place.

I think the jury is out on whether this story is designed to produce suspense (Aristotle and Poe's prescription for narrative), or to illustrate the inner, secret life of each character (E. M. Forster's - as outlined in Aspects of the Novel).

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