British contemporary writer Zadie Smith is often representative of cosmopolitan writers of the twenty-first century: in both her fiction and nonfiction, she joins a multicultural background and broad, varied interests to an ethic based on the importance of interpersonal relationships and empathetic respect for the other. But while Smith is often considered the poster child for the contemporary British cosmopolitan, her ethics are in fact rooted in the one rather staid member of the canon: EM Forster, whose emphatic call to ‘only connect’ grounds all of Smith's fiction. Her latest novel, 2012's NW, further expands her relationship to Forster in highlighting both the promise and the limitations of empathy and cosmopolitan connection in the context of modern urban British life. This paper uses Kwame Anthony Appiah's definition of “rooted cosmopolitanism” to explore Forster's and Smith's shared ethics. I argue that their relationship grounds and influences Smith's literary rooted cosmopolitanism: that while she writes books for the age of globalization, her deliberate ties to the British canon suggest an investment in maintaining and reinvigorating the British novelistic tradition as a pathway to a collective British identity that is as expansive, modern, and empathetic as her novels.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Marostica, Laura Domenica, "Zadie Smith's NW and the Edwardian Roots of the Contemporary Cosmopolitan Ethic" (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 4344.
Zadie Smith, E. M. Forster, cosmopolitanism, NW