“Only connect …,” the epigraph of Forster's Howards End, offers itself as a model of moral diplomacy. The efficacy of genuine human connection—whether it takes the form of creative action or of decent human relations—in containing and civilizing force is an idea that informs the novel's conception of what constitutes and ensures civilized life. Forster regarded propriety and convention as expressions of force and so applauded any assault on conventional feeling as an act of moral heroism. This essay introduces the third installment of the Common Knowledge symposium “Peace by Other Means”: it explores and indeed extols the moral efficacy of connection in containing force and resolving conflicts, but it also contemplates the obstacles to connection, which Forster dramatizes with his characteristic honesty.

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