'Maurice' Without Ending: From Forster's Palimpsest to Fan-Text




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Liverpool University Press


Book chapter

Peer reviewed



During their ongoing lives, both E. M. Forster’s gay bildungsroman/romance ‘Maurice’ (written 1913–14, repeatedly revised 1914–1959, posthumously published 1971) and Merchant Ivory Productions’ eponymous 1987 film adaptation have suffered parallel forms of critical dismissal and misrecognition. Both novel and film have been received in terms that dismiss them as works worthy of analysis and deny their cultural, political and affective significance: whether as the first gay love story to deliver an ‘imperative’ happy ending, or as the radical Utopian, visionary queer text Forster’s – open, un‐‘finished’ – ending encodes. Where 1970s critics marginalised Forster’s ‘Maurice’ by dismissing it as an ‘inferior’ work or ‘fairytale’, the dominant critical response to James Ivory’s ‘Maurice’ in the UK would stubbornly pigeonhole and dismiss it as merely a ‘heritage film’ – a stance epitomised in Mark Finch and Richard Kwietniowski’s perverse insistence that Ivory’s ‘Maurice’ is ‘fourthly, and only fourthly, about le vice anglais’ (1988:72).

In the early twenty-first century, however, such responses are challenged by the enduring and profound impact of both novel and film on audiences/readers, whose intense responses to ‘Maurice’ are vividly evident in post‐2000 Web 2.0 participatory culture (Monk, 2011b).

This chapter instigates and nests within a larger project of reappraising ‘Maurice’’s evolution and adaptation(s) across three phases of its century-long (trans)textual history, including its still-unfolding twenty-first century adaptations and its popular reception and uses in its ongoing public life. First, the complex, palimpsestic history of ‘Maurice’ ‘the’ novel between 1913-14 and 1971: the product of 57 years of private circulation, and intermittent but protracted textual revisions, during which divergent manuscripts were read by multiple ‘peer reviewers’. Second, the 1987 film adaptation, which was the product of a comparably complicated, contested genesis and significant structural reworking (made publicly part-visible for the first time in the 2004 release of the Merchant Ivory Collection DVD, with its 30‐plus minutes of unused or deleted scenes, and in the subsequent Blu-ray/DVD releases of the film’s 30th-anniversary digital restoration since 2017: see Monk, 2017 and 2019). The third phase comprises the responses of ‘Maurice’’s twenty-first-century readers/audiences and fans, which take a variety of forms – some merely made newly visible by twenty-first-century participatory digital and internet culture; others directly enabled, stimulated, or shaped by it – and also the further adaptations, re-adaptations and paratexts of Maurice (Forster’s, Ivory’s, or blurring the two) which have emerged or been made during the same period. These include a great variety of post‐2000 (re‐)adaptations and sequels written by fans themselves, whether published online or in print (within a wider body of ‘Maurice’ fanworks such a pop videos and crossover fictions: see Monk, 2011b).

Since 2004, more than 160 fan-authored ‘Maurice’ fictions (including sequels, and crossovers which mix characters and/or story elements from more than one text/fandom) have been published online in English (as well as more than 30 in Russian and some in other languages). These works are of interest not merely for the insights they offer into reader/fan understandings of and investments in ‘Maurice’, but for the work done by fans in extending Forster’s sexual politics and Utopian vision – as well as the Maurice Hall/Alec Scudder cross-class pairing – into ‘the for ever and ever that fiction allows’ (Forster, 1960/1972, p.218), and in their narrative and representational solutions to perceived difficulties or limitations within the novel and/or film.



Maurice, “Maurice”, E.M. Forster, Edward Morgan Forster, Forster, James Ivory, Merchant Ivory Productions, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Kit Hesketh Harvey, Christopher Isherwood, LGBT, literary estates, English literature, British cinema, Film Studies, queer literature, LGBT history, queer history, sexuality, homosexuality, textual history, production studies, film production studies, literary adaptation, adaptation studies, period films, participatory culture, digital culture, internet, literary criticism, reception studies, audiences, fannishness, fandom, fan studies, fanworks, fanfiction, privately circulated books, sub-rosa works


Monk, C. (2020) 'Maurice' Without Ending: From Forster's Palimpsest to Fan-Text. In: Sutton, E. and Tsai, T.-H. eds. Twenty-First Century Readings of E. M. Forster's 'Maurice', Liverpool English Texts and Studies 83 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press).


Research Institute

Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI)