Sea-changes: Melville - Forster - Britten
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Sea-changes: Melville - Forster - Britten

By Hanna Rochlitz
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Book Description

E. M. Forster first encountered Billy Budd in 1926. Some twenty years later, he embarked on a collaboration with Benjamin Britten and Eric Crozier, adapting Melville’s novella for the opera stage. The libretto they produced poignantly reaffirmsthe Forsterian creed of salvation through personal relationships.This study presents an extensive exploration of Forster’s involvement in the interpretation, transformation and re-creation of Melville’s text. It situates the story of the Handsome Sailor in the wider context of Forster’s literary oeuvre, his life, and his lifewritings. In detailed readings, Billy Budd becomes a lens through which the themes, patterns and leitmotifs of Forsterian thought and creative imagination are brought into focus. A close re-examination of the libretto sketches serves to shed new light on the collaborative process in which Melville’s story was changed to fit an archetypal array of plot and character types that is central to Forster’s own storytelling.

Table of Contents
  • Rochlitz_Diss_book_121112.pdf
    • Contents
      • Acknowledgements
      • Copyright statement
      • List of abbreviations
      • Note on citations and editorial practice
    • Introduction
    • Part one: Billy Budd: novella and opera
    • I.1. Transforming prose works into opera:some key concerns
    • I.2. Melville’s Billy Budd: the text and its readers
      • I.2.1. Textual history and textual problems
      • I.2.2. Early critical reception and post-1950 criticism
      • I.2.3. E. M. Forster and Benjamin Britten in the tradition of British Melville reception
      • I.2.4. The editions used by Britten and his librettists
    • I.3. “To quarry a play out of [Melville]”:the three main characters as raw material
      • I.3.1. Methodological reflections and general observations
      • I.3.2. Billy
      • I.3.3. Claggart
      • I.3.4. Vere
    • I.4. Billy Budd transposed and transformed:the libretto
      • I.4.1. Adapting Melville’s plot
      • I.4.2. Original Melville Material in the Libretto
      • I.4.3. Billy
      • I.4.4. Claggart
      • I.4.5. Vere
      • I.4.6. Further observations and conclusion
    • I.5. Musical structures: yet another inside narrative
      • I.5.1. Leitmotifs, narrative voice, and narrative perspective
      • I.5.2. “A family of motivic shapes”: the Mutiny “cluster”
      • I.5.3. Musical presences of the main characters: a brief overview
        • I.5.3.1. Billy
        • I.5.3.2. Claggart
        • I.5.3.3. Vere
      • I.5.4. Tonal symbolism, the closeted interview, and salvation
    • I.6. Part One: summary and outlook
    • Part two: E. M. Forster and the story of Billy Budd
    • II.1. Forster reads Melville: the first encounter
      • II.1.1. Forster’s 1927 Billy Budd: good versus evil, a drama for two actors
      • II.1.2. “Other claimants to satanic intimacy”: Forster’s queer decodings
      • II.1.3. “Satanic intimacy”?Challenging the connection between homosexuality and evil
    • II.2. Forsterian themes and narrative patterns
      • II.2.1. “Only one novel to write”: recurring themes and character types
      • II.2.2. The ‘dark’/‘light’ character pairing in Forster’s fiction
        • II.2.2.1. Typology
        • II.2.2.2. Saving “the English character”: ‘dark’ redeemed by ‘light’
        • II.2.2.3. “It takes two to make a Hero”?The ‘light’ saviour character as Other
        • II.2.2.4. “Bring me a bath”: the homophobic ‘light’ character
        • II.2.2.5. Eternal pursuit: sexuality, violence and death in Forster’s fiction
      • II.2.3. The Forsterian salvation narrative
        • II.2.3.1. “From confusion to salvation”: “travelling light”
        • II.2.3.2. “The salvation that was latent in his own soul”:connection with the Other as a means to connection with the self
        • II.2.3.3. Seizing the symbolic moment:human failure, “odious” behaviour, and the possibility of redemption
        • II.2.3.4. “A land where she’ll anchor forever”:death, love and the salutary prophetic vision
        • II.2.3.5. “But he has saved me”:the strains and tensions of enforced salvation
        • II.2.3.6. Forster’s “Nunc Dimittis” – his final word on salvation?
      • II.2.4. An affinity of literary imagination:some aspects of Forster’s and Melville’s narrative strategies
        • II.2.4.1. Forster’s “inside narratives”
        • II.2.4.2. Forster and Melville hint at mystery: “scriptural reminiscence”, unsympathetic outsiders, and narratorial eloquence
    • II.3. Forster’s “little phrases”:pan-Forsterian textual leitmotifs
      • II.3.1. Introduction
      • II.3.2. “Muddle”
      • II.3.3. “Mist”
      • II.3.4. “Oh, what have I done?”
      • II.3.5. “I’d die for you”
      • II.3.6. Intimatopia: “helping”, “looking after”, “trusting”, and “feeling safe”
      • II.3.7. “Come”
      • II.3.8. “Lights in the darkness” and “far-shining sails”
      • II.3.9. “I’m done for” and “Fate”
      • II.3.10. “Only a boy”: paternalism and the pitfalls of desire
        • II.3.10.1. Forsterian “boys”
        • II.3.10.2. “The physical violence of the young”:the aggressive “boy” as object of erotic longing
        • II.3.10.3. Despotic fathers, obedient sons, and salutary “breaking”:Billy Budd and Howards End
        • II.3.10.4. The parallel case of “Arthur Snatchfold”
        • II.3.10.5. Man/boy: narrative trajectories in Billy Budd
        • II.3.10.6. “You […] spoke so fatherly to me”:paternal blandishments and boys’ betrayals
    • II.4. Textual relationships: four case studies
      • II.4.1. “Ralph and Tony” (1903)
      • II.4.2. The Longest Journey (1907)
        • II.4.2.1. Introduction and synopsis
        • II.4.2.2. ‘Light’ characters
          • II.4.2.2.1. Stephen Wonham: a pagan deity in Edwardian guise
            • A desirable “coarse” man
            • Illegitimates and foundlings: social anomalies and disruptive forces
            • “But Jemmy Legs likes me”: assumptions and interpretations
            • “One nips or is nipped”: the Forsterian ‘light’ character as fatalist
          • II.4.2.2.2. The petty athlete: Gerald Dawes as homophobic ‘light’ character
        • II.4.2.3. ‘Dark’ characters
          • II.4.2.3.1. “Too weak”: Rickie Elliot, a protagonist who fails
            • “Rickety Elliot”: queer encodings
            • “Lost on the infinite sea”: salvation and ruin
            • “Hate and envy”: Rickie Elliot as flawed ‘dark’ protagonist
          • II.4.2.3.2. Desperate villains: John Claggart and Agnes Elliot, née Pembroke
      • II.4.3. “He would not save his saviour”: “Arthur Snatchfold” (1928)
      • II.4.4. “The Other Boat” (1957/58)
    • II.5. Character relationships: protagonist, villain, saviour
      • II.5.1. “A man who despite his education, understands”:Forsterian readings of Captain Vere
        • II.5.1.1. Representation and transformation:the Vere of the 1947 BBC Book Talk
          • Interlude: the “closeted interview” as moment of connection
        • II.5.1.2. Reading matter(s): E. M. Forster and E. F. Vere
        • II.5.1.3. “Natures constituted like Captain Vere’s” among the Forsterian ‘dark’ characters
        • II.5.1.4. “Was he unhinged?”: Melville, Forster and the voice of Science
        • II.5.1.5. “I who am king of this fragment of earth”:the problem of authority
      • II.5.2. Sympathy for the Devil:the Forsterian ‘dark’ character as villain, victim and lover of violence
        • II.5.2.1. Goats or sheep?Homosexual panic, repression, homoerotic longing and salvation
        • II.5.2.2. Ideal bachelors and “a certain devil” known as asceticism:the dark side of respectability
          • Stupidity
          • Asceticism
          • “Pale ire, envy and despair”: Mr Beebe and the ‘dark’ characters of Billy Budd
          • “Nothing of the sordid or sensual”:respectability, asceticism and Forsterian concepts of evil
        • II.5.2.3. “On the surface they were at war”: the erotics of antagonism
      • II.5.3. Billy Budd: a man “in the precise meaning of the word”
        • II.5.3.1. “Alloyed by H. M.’s suppressed homosex:”:Forster’s earliest encounter with Billy Budd
        • II.5.3.2. “Belted Billy” as the desirable Forsterian ‘light’ character
        • II.5.3.3. “The light […] that irritates and explodes” – and inspires desire
        • II.5.3.4. “He’s a-stammer”: (mis-)representation, inarticulacy and violence
        • II.5.3.5. Beautiful males, icons of desire:Billy Budd and other Forsterian ‘light’ characters
        • II.5.3.6. “To make Billy, rather than Vere, the hero”:an exercise in communicative ambiguity
        • II.5.3.7. “The strength of Antigone”: acceptance, fortitude and forgiveness
    • II.6. Mutiny and homosexuality in Billy Budd:queer reading(s)
      • II.6.1. Introductory: “Naval report U. S. A.”
      • II.6.2. “Aught amiss”:discourses about mutiny and homosexuality in Melville’s novella
      • II.6.3. “Death is the penalty”:mutiny and homosexuality in naval law and Imperialist ideology
      • II.6.4. Subverting “civilisation as we have made it”:Forster and queer desire
      • II.6.5. “I’ll not discuss”: the unspeakable in Forster’s work
      • II.6.6. “Never could I do those foul things”:negotiating the borders between homoerotic longing and homophobia (I)
      • II.6.7. “We are both in sore trouble, him and me”:negotiating the borders between homoerotic longing and homophobia (II)
      • II.6.8. The Mutiny motif:negotiating the borders between homoerotic longing and homophobia (III)
    • Part Three: genesis of an opera: the sources’ tale
    • III.1. Let’s make an opera (I):the genesis of Billy Budd
      • III.1.1. Introduction
      • III.1.2. “Our most musical novelist”: Forster’s operatic affinities
      • III.1.3. Setting to work
      • III.1.4. “A positive challenge”: all-male opera and relations between men
      • III.1.5. “We did steep ourselves in this story”:researching the historical background
      • III.1.6. From draft to opera stage: a brief timeline
    • III.2. Let’s make an opera (II):evolution of the libretto
      • III.2.1. “How odiously Vere comes out in the trial scene”:readings, responses, re-imaginings
      • III.2.2. The source material: overview and general observations
      • III.2.3. “I am an old man”: the metamorphoses of Captain Vere
        • III.2.3.1. “Vere […] had better live on”:changed functions of a changed figure
        • III.2.3.2. “Really the worst of our problems”: rewriting the trial scene
          • March 1949
          • August 1949
          • “I accept their verdict”: Forster’s and Britten’s manuscript revisions
        • III.2.3.3. From hubris to “the straits of Hell”:Vere’s shorter Act II monologues
        • III.2.3.4. “Lost on the infinite sea”:from “confusion” to transcendent vision
      • III.2.4. “This is the trap concealed in the daisies”:the evolution of the Billy/Vere relationship
      • III.2.5. “A sanitised Billy Budd”? Concerning the flogging of the Novice
      • III.2.6. “We’ll take no quarter”:the Captain’s Muster and the 1960 revisions
      • III.2.7. Editing tendencies: from historical realism towards ‘the universal’
    • III.3. Coda: the Claggart monologue:resisting and rewriting
      • III.3.1. “It is my most important piece of writing”:Forster’s “big monologue for Claggart”
      • III.3.2. “Not soggy depression or growling remorse”:composer and librettist at odds over the opera’s villain
        • Chronology
      • III.3.3. “I seemed turning from one musical discomfort to another”:Claggart’s aria, first version
      • III.3.4. Haunting fourths:Britten, Forster and the musical convergence of Claggart and Vere
    • Conclusion and outlook
      • Appendix A: Musical examples
      • Appendix B: E. M. Forster and Billy Budd : timeline
    • Works Cited
    • Index
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