spacer graphic Wendy Moffat
Professor of English 

phone: 717.245.1499
fax: 717.245.1942

ulum Vitae




A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E.M. Forster ( Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010) was simultaneously published in Britain (as E. M. Forster: A New Life, 2010.) . By the time he was thirty, before the First World War, Forster was a famous novelist, celebrated for his social comedies A Room with a View and Howards End. But after A Passage to India was published in 1924, a curious silence. One of the most prominent novelists of his time appeared to simply cease writing fiction. But in private he preserved a vast archive of his experience as a sexual outsider in his own country. And he kept writing"unpublishable" stories, essays, and letters--a testament to his "great unrecorded history."

Almost all his life homosexuality was illegal. Forster was sixteen when Oscar Wilde was sent to prison for "gross indecency" ; he died--at 91--in 1970, the year after the Stonewall riots. In his private life, with his lovers and friends, and within remarkably-developed gay communities, he embraced his sexuality; it came to define his writing, his friendships, in fact every part of his life.

My biography is the first work to integrate Forster's public and private lives and show just how his sexuality shaped his life, his work, and his politics. A Great Unrecorded History is a biography of the heart. Forster's life observed through the lens of his sexuality offers us a radically new view of a life we thought we knew.

The book has been well received. Named a Top Ten Book of 2010 by Janet Maslin in the New York Times, it garnered the Biographer's Club Prize for Best First Biography [UK], was chosen as an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book [USA], named runner up for the PEN Biography Prize[USA], and finalist for the James Tait Black Prize [Scotland], and the Randy Shilts Award for non-fiction [USA]. For reviews of the book see

I have also published on Jane Austen, photography, modernism and sexuality, pedagigy, and academic administration.

Cover image: E. M. Forster by George Platt Lynes, New York, 1949. Copyright the Estate of George Platt Lynes,image used with permission of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.


I have taught at Dickinson since 1984. In 1994 I received the Ganoe Award for Inspirational Teaching. 

Both my undergraduate and graduate work was at Yale University. I have published on modern British fiction, on photography, on Jane Austen and feminism, on teaching, curriculum development, and building a sense of community in English departments. In addition to my teaching at Dickinson, I have been active in the Association of Departments of English serving as ADE President in 2004. The International Society for the Study of Narrative and the Modernist Studies Association have offered me a safe place and fertile ground to try out my ideas over the years.

In my teaching I encourage students to work hard and to think for themselves. My courses demand a lot of reading. My mantra is "make new mistakes." 

I teach modern British fiction, the history and theory of narrative, sexuality, modernism, and British culture.

On Modernism:
The Great War Imagined
; Sexuality and Modernism; James Joyce's Ulysses; Forster's England; Bloomsbury and the Idea of the Literary Circle; The Modern Novel; Public and Private Voices in Woolf, Forster, and Orwell 18th and 19th Century Literature: Jane Austen in her Time; 19th Century British Literature and Society; The Originsa of the English Novel; Victorian London In Theory and Methods: Critical Approaches and Literary Methods; History of Literary Theory; Reader Response Criticism; The Novel and Literary Theory; Fiction and Narrative Fil; Campus CultureCourses Taught in the UK: London as a Text; East Anglia: An Interdisciplinary Approach


Student Faculty Research

Three classes I have taught recently culminated in student-run exhibitions in Waidner-Spahr Library.


In the Fall 2008, students in my Forster's England course presented a library exhibit of their work. Entitled "On the Outside Looking In," the exhibit observed early 20th century British history culture through Forster's life and works. Photos: Pierce Bounds.



I have been honored to receive support from the Dana Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, Dickinson's Research and Development Committee and the Office of Global Education to work with promising undergraduates on my Forster biography. Here is a short essay by Sara Hoover '03 on our work together.


Roger Brubaker '03, Sara Hoover and I presented a paper at the University of London called "Bloomsbury in Pennsylvania" on the Bloomsbury Group Exhibit in the library.To the right are Roger and Sara communing with the auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham at the University of London.

One thing I really care about is dogs.



Fritz (left) and Archie (right); Eliot (left below) and Fritz; and Sally. ( Forster liked cats. )

fritz and arch dogsinsun sally
More photos of dogs.    

Click on the map to the left to enlarge it. It comes from Baedeker's Egypt, 1914. Forster used this guidebook to orient himself during the years he lived and worked in Alexandria, during the First World War. Thanks to Betty Sams for the loan of this precious book.


Forster also lived at Kings College, Cambridge, in Weybridge, and London.




public footpath

In 1997-8 my family and I lived in Norwich, England, where I served as 
Director of the Dickinson Programmes in Norwich at the University of East 


There will always be an England: Rubbish bin in North London. Click the image for information on study programs in London and Norwich, England. 


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