Story of Evolution/Evolution of Stories
Bryn Mawr College
Finishing Howard's End and beginning On Beauty
April 2, 2007

For Thursday's discussion:
please finish Pt. 2, "The Anatomy Lesson"

Adaptation: In Three Forms





( Spike Jonze's 2002 film about adapting a novel into a Hollywood screenplay. )

Why is Mrs. Wilcox's home called "Howards End"?


Who was Howard, and what was his end?

How seriously are we to take Dolly's pun?

"'Then hadn't Mrs. Wilcox a brother--or was it an uncle? Anyhow, he popped the queston, and Miss Avery, she said 'No.' Just imagine, if she'd said 'Yes,' she would have been Charles's aunt....And the man went out and was killed. Yes, I'm certain I've got it right now. Tom Howard--he was the last of them....I say! Howards End--Howards Ended!' cried Dolly. 'I'm rather on the spot this evening, eh?'" (Ch. 24, p. 203)

Why is Forster's novel called Howards End?

[Random query: why does neither name have an apostrophe?
Does this indicate something about the question of "possession"?]

"'The field's cut,' Helen cried excitedly--'the big meadow! We've seen to the very end...'" (last line of the novel....)



How conclusive is the End of Howard?
How certain the end, how teleological the novel?

How "dated" is it, how applicable to/
generative for contemporary trends and issues?

(Or: can you stand another pun?)



Tory Leader Michael Howard
Stands Down (The House Magazine/The
Parliamentary Weekly, December 2005)


Australian Poll Points To Howard's End (March 20, 2007):

The 11-year-old conservative government of Prime Minister John
Howard could be swept from power in the biggest landslide in 30
years at a general election expected in November.



Howard Dean concedes the Democratic primary to John Kerry
(February 2004)

Moving on/Refusing to End -->

Why is Zadie Smith's "homage to Howards End" called On Beauty?


In what ways might "Beauty" replace "Howards End"
as the location for the center of values in the text?

What clues/instructions about reading the novel do we get from the new title?


The differences in titles (and possible explanations for those differences) may tell us something about the different modes of adaptation adopted by Merchant-Ivory and Smith--and how both resemble/ differ from

Biological Adaptation: "an anatomical structure, physiological process or behavioral trait of an organism that has evolved over a period of time by the process of natural selection such that it increases the expected long-term reproductive success of the organism....Organisms that are not suitably adapted to their environment will either have to move out of the habitat or die out."

(Cf. Pt. 2, Ch. 7, pp. 208-9:) "On Tuesday night, a water main burst....A dark river filled the street...She watched a little behavioural pattern develop....People paused...waited for the passing car to displace its gallon of grimy water and then continued on their way, proudly, swiftly adaptable to anything the city could throw at them."

Compare this with

Literary Adaptation: "There are two ways of using a literary source: honour, and plunder. To honour the source, the medium will retain the characters and locales but may not use the structure or dialogue. A plundered literary source used by another medium will not resemble the original."

Film Adaptation: "Inevitably, the question of "faithfulness" arises, and the more high profile the source novel, the more insistent are the questions of fidelity." (all 3 defintions from Wikipedia)

"The rewriting of a work from its original form to fit it for another medium; also the new form of such a rewritten work....the term implies an attempt to retain the characters, actions, and as much as possible of the language and tone of the original, and thus adaptation differs significantly from the reworking of a source." (C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature, 4th edition, 1980)

"variety and often conflicting analytical paradigms...characterize the study of literary adaptations" ( Studies in Literary Adaptation, The University of Wales)

What differences do you see between these
definitions of biological and literary/filmic adaptation?
Let's test these understandings for ourselves....


Watching "Building Howard's End":
How did Merchant and Ivory adapt the novel to the screen?
What is their understanding of "adaptation"?

What sort of adaptation is On Beauty?
Where did it come from?
What elements are descended from Forster?
What Forsterian elements has Smith changed?
What distinctly non-Forsterian elements have you noted?
Where do they come from?
[From Jerome's e-mail:] "Kiss Zora and ask her to read Matthew 24. I know how she just loves a bit of Scripture every day" (Ch. 1, p. 6).

"It's come over us like the Song of Solomon, and there's no way to explain it apart from as a kind of mutual revelation" (Ch. 1, p. 7).

[Charlene:] "'I love a line from a poem:
"There is such shelter in each other." I think it is so fine....When I spoke it to [Monty], he said that that was all very well but I should place it on a scale--a scale of judgement--and on the other side of the scale I should place "L'enfer, c'est les autres." And then see which had more weight in the world!'....Kiki smiled helplessly. She did not speak French" (Ch. 10, p. 94).
Scriptural lessons vs. existential insights:
will other people prove, in the course of the novel,
to be "shelters" or sources of torment?

(And do you hear echoes, here, of "only connect"?)


And: what's beauty have to do with it?
What is the attitude of the various characters towards beauty?
In particular: what is the attitude of Howard,
the art history professor?

"Have you found a way to prove Rembrandt was no good yet?" (Jerome's e-mail to his father, Ch. 1, p. 5).

"Howard hates all representational painting." (Kiki, Ch. 3, p. 18)

"Erskine often joked that only a man who had such pleasure at home could be the kind of theorist Howard was, so against pleasure in his work" (Ch. 12, p. 110).


An example of this work: the painting with which
Howard begins his course on "Interrogating Rembrandt"--

What do you see?




"Rembrandt's Dr. Nicolaes Tulp Demonstrating the Anatomy of the Arm 1632, that clarion call of an Enlightenment not yet arrived, with its rational apostles gathered around a dead man, their faces uncannily lit by the holy light of science. The left hand of the doctor, raised in explicit imitation (or so Howard would argue to his students) of the benefactions of Christ; the gentleman at the back staring out at us, requesting admiration for the fearless humanity of the project, the rigorous scientific pursuance of the dictum Nosce te ipsium, 'Know thyself'--Howard had a long shtick about this painting that never failed to captivate his army of shopping-day students....But today Howard felt himself caught in the painting's orbit. He could see himself laid out on that very table, his skin white and finished with the world, his arm cut open for students to examine....(Pt. 2, Ch. 2, p. 144)

So they had come, and they had heard. Howard...had offered them a Rembrandt who was neither a rule breaker nor an original but rather a conformist; he had asked them to ask themselves what they meant by 'genius' and, in the perplexed silence, replaced the familiar rebel master of historical fame with Howard's own vision of a merely competent artisan who painted whatever his wealthy patrons requested. Howard asked his students to imagine prettiness as the mask that power wears. To recast Aesthetics as a rarefied language of exclusion. He promised them a class that would challenge their own beliefs about the redemptive humanity of what is commonly called 'Art.''Art is the Western myth,' announced Howard, for the sixth year in a row, 'with which we both
console ourselves and make ourselves'"....

Silence...an interesting breed of silence particular to upscale liberal arts colleges....You could feel it...millions of things to say brewing in this room, so strong sometimes that they seemed to shoot from the students telepathically and bounce off the furniture....But not one of them would speak. They had an intense fear of their peers. And, more than that, of Howard himself...he positively relished it. The fear was respect, the respect, fear" (Pt. II, Ch. 3, p. 155).


If you were shopping Howard's class,
what would your response be to his initial lecture?

Would you be intrigued? Would you come again?
Would you speak? Be silent? Why?

Would you be be closing down? Opening Up?
Mind-wandering?

How does Howard's approach encourage learning?
How does it encourage thinking?
What's the difference?


(Cf. Pt. 2, Ch. 4, p. 178: "'Monty hates to think again.'")

(Epigram to Part II, "The Anatomy Lesson"): "To misstate, or even merely understate, the relation of the universities to beauty is one kind of error that can be made. A university is among the precious things that can be destroyed. Elaine Scarry"




Elaine Scarry, Part One, "On Beauty and Being Wrong,"
from On Beauty and Being Just (1999): " This impulse to continually to revise one's own location in order to place oneself in the path of beauty is the basic impulse underlying education. One submits oneself to other minds (teachers) in order to increase the chance that one will be looking in he right direction when a comet makes its sweep through a certain path of sky....By perpetuating beauty, the institutions of education help incite the will toward continual creation (pp. 7-8).

....beauty...incites deliberation....The experience of 'being in error' so inevitably accompanies the perception of beauty that it begins to seem one of its abiding structural features. On the one hand, something beautiful...makes a clear and self-evident appearance....On the other hand, the act of perceiving that seemingly self-evident beauty has a built-in liability to self-correction and self-adjustment...Something beautiful immediately catches attention yet prompts one to judgment that one then continues to scrutinize, and that one not infrequently discovers to be in error. Something beautiful fills the mind yet invites the search for something beyond itself....beauty is a starting place for education (pp. 28-31).

....beautiful things...always carry greeting from other worlds within them....the perceiver is led to a more capacious regard for the world....The material world constrains us....But mental life doesn't....It is porous...This very plasticity, this elasticity, also makes beauty associate with error....the mind...soon discovers the limits of its own starting place...the limitlessness of the beautiful thing it beholds (pp. 47-48).

....beauty really is allied with truth....it ignites the desire for truth by giving us...the experience of conviction and the experience, as well, of error....It creates, without itself fulfilling, the aspiration for enduring certitude. It comes to us, with no work of our own, then leaves us prepared to undergo a giant labor" (pp. 52-53).

Is that how beauty functions in this novel?
Is that how Howard uses it in his course on "Interrogating Rembrandt"?

What is your own attitude toward beauty?
What do you find beautiful?
How do you know it is beautiful?
How do you feel, when you experience something beautiful?

Does beauty serve a function?
In your studies? In your life?
Would you call it an evolutionary function?
Is it of any use?

Of what use is beauty in this novel?



"'the whole would of course be a great deal more compelling if Belsey knew to which painting I was referring....' He had let his guard down. Monty saw his chance and took it. Howard would have done the same. To enact with one sudden tug (like a boy removing his friends' shorts in front of the opposing team) a complete exposure, a cataclysmic embarrassment--this is one of the purest academic pleasures" (Ch. 4, pp. 28-29).




Pieter Pauwel Rubens (1577-1640), Four Studies of the Head of a Negro

"'Are you at Wellington? Familiar face,' said Howard distractedly...Carl laughed, a strange artificial laugh that had more anger in it than good humour. 'Do I look like I'm at Wellington?'....'Rubens,' said Howard suddenly. 'Your face. From the four African heads. Nice to meet you, anyway.' Howard's family stared at him....Kiki tried to patch the thing up. It's remarkable what a face like Carl's makes you want to do in order to see it smile again." (Ch. 7, pp. 76-78).


"'What drama you all live in,' said Claire happily. 'I don't blame...Jerome--I saw her, she's so amazing, looks like Nefertiti. Didn't you think so, Howard? Like one of those statuaries in the bottom of the Fitzwilliam, in Cambridge. You've seen those, right? Such an anciently wonderful face. Didn't you think?'" (Ch. 12, p. 123).

What roles does beauty play in each of these scenes?
How important is it to be beautiful, in the world of this novel?
How does it feel to be beautiful?

How do others respond to beauty?
Do responses differ, among the beautiful and the not-beautiful?
Do they differ between men and women?





Maitresse Erzulie by Hector Hyppolite

"It was painted in a primitive, childlike style, everything flat on the canvas. No perspective, no depth....'It's lovely. I just love portraits. We don't have any paintings in our house...none of human beings.' 'Oh, that's terrible...I have many. They're my company....But she's my favourite. She's a great Voodoo goodess, Erzulie. She's called the Black Virgin--also, the Violent Venus....She represents love, beauty, purity, the ideal female and the moon....and she's the mystère of jealousy, vengeance and discord, and, on the other hand, of love, perpetual help, goodwill, health, beauty and fortune....rather like all the Catholic saints rolled into one being.'

'That's interesting...' began Kiki shyly, giving herself a moment to remember a thesis of Howard's which she now wished to reproduce as her own for Carlene. 'Because...we're so binary, of course, in the way we think. We tend to think in opposites, in the Christian world. We're structured like that...'

'That's a clever way to put it. I like her parrots.'" (Pt. 2, Ch. 4, p. 175)





Rembrandt, Hendrickje Bathing in a River, 1654

"[Howard] was...simplifying a complex case...'It's true that men...respond to beauty...it doesn't end for them, this...this concern with beauty as a physical actuality in the world--and that's clearly imprisoning and it infantilizes...but it's true and...I don't know how else to explain what--'

'Get
away from me....I'm not interested in your aesthetic theories....You're not Rembrandt, Howard.'"(Pt. 2, Ch. 6, p. 207)

In what ways do the characters in the novel
resist an awareness of beauty?

Why might they defend themselves against its assault ?

Elvis Costello, "All this Useless Beauty"

Some possible avenues for further exploration: A Symposium on Beauty (February-March 2004)
Grobsten, "Biology, Brains and Beauty"
What is Beauty? Collecting More Data on our Own Experiences
Beauty: A Conversation Between Chemistry and Culture (Spring 2005)




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