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Fudan University
“The New Economy and the Old Morality”: Wells, Forster, and Edwardian Liberalism

This talk examines how the novels of H. G. Wells and E. M. Forster represent the transmutation of British liberalism at the turn of the twentieth century. It analyzes a strain of liberal thinking that connects to and diverges from the advocacies of both the New Liberalism and Fabian socialism, reformist doctrines that reshaped the political topography of Edwardian England. Focusing on depictions of “the new economy and the old morality” by both writers, I argue that Edwardian literature vividly captures the internal complexity and variability of British liberalism in the early twentieth century. The talk extends recent scholarship that calls attention to the affective and ethico-aesthetic dimensions of liberalism. It demonstrates how the mutually informing relationship between Edwardian liberalism and literature enriches our understanding of the subtleties of liberal culture in the twentieth century and beyond.


Nan Zhang is an Associate Professor of English Literature at Fudan University and a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong. She received her Ph.D. in English Literature from Johns Hopkins University. She has published a book on Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, and is currently finishing her second monograph, “Solemn Progress”: Modernism, Social Constitution, and the Politics of Cosmopolitan Virtue, which explores global modernist negotiations with various forms of cosmopolitan virtue. Her new book project examines the interplay between Edwardian liberalism and literature and its transcultural implications. Her articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Modern Fiction Studies, Modernist Cultures, Journal of East-West Thought, and elsewhere. She is a co-founder and currently chair of the Modernist Studies in Asia research network, and has been awarded international fellowships for her research, including the 2020 Humanities Research Centre Fellowship at the Australian National University and British Academy Seed Funding in 2019.

Zoom Details

Zoom link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/91794677602?pwd=ZmJSbndoZVJCUE1QYWJqakxKVGVXQT09

Meeting ID: 917 9467 7602
Password: 735745

In view of the current pandemic situation, all face-to-face events or activities shall be suspended in accordance to the notice issued by Task Force. As a matter of fact, the upcoming seminar will be shifted from hybrid mode to online mode only.