'Adventures of the soul among masterpieces': Ford and France (anatole)

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Abstract

Ford's criticism regularly cites Anatole France as an exemplary figure. But France's subsequent neglect has resulted in his significance to Ford being overlooked. Perhaps guided by Conrad's admiration for France, Ford was certainly reading him in the 1900s, publishing him in the English Review, and getting Conrad to review him there. His comments on Anatole France over three decades are tracked, from his 1907 review to The March of Literature (1938). France's stand as a Dreyfusard, his ironic scepticism, his immersion in history and writing of predominantly historical fiction, would all have made him a congenial figure to Ford. It is especially as a critic that France was an important model for Ford; for his regular 'causerie'-form essays, expressing his view that criticism was essentially an autobiographical act. France's series of fictionalised memoirs offer a model for both generically indeterminate books like No Enemy (which mentions him) and Ford's books on culture and travel, as well as for his tendency to fictionalise in his own autobiographical volumes. But France is also demonstrated to be crucial for Ford's elaboration of his own paradoxical form of literary impressionism. It was while Ford was living in Paris and editing the transatlantic review that Anatole France's example loomed especially large: an example both of how a civilised culture honours its artists, and of how it fosters the younger talents who will be driven to negate such honours.

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFord Madox Ford's Cosmopolis: Psycho-geography, Flânerie and the Cultures of Paris
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016