Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dorothy McMahon, William McMahon, James Heldman

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Ford Madox Ford has often been seen by critics as an author of pure style, writing without philosophic underpinnings for his impressionistic techniques. However, philosophy plays a large role in Ford's work—as a foundation for both his themes and literary theory. This philosophy, phenomenology--the metaphysics of individual experience as opposed to universal determinism—came into existence during Ford's lifetime. Though Ford may never have read in phenomenology, his works reflect the movement both in what he writes, by emphasizing the individual over the communal experience, and how he writes, using the idea of the neutral author to present objective narration.

The first three chapters explore three of Ford's works--the fairy tale The Queen Who Flew (1894), the novel The Good Soldier (1915), and the tetralogy Parade's End (1924-1928)—and show a growth of phenomenological thought within each. Starting with The Queen Who Flew, Ford portrays the first principle of phenomenology, the importance of individual perspective, a principle found in the early phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. In The Good Soldier, a second stage of phenomenology. Martin Heidegger's discovery of the underlying void and apparent meaninglessness of life, can be seen. Third, Jean-Paul Sartre's ideas of nihilation, freedom, and the self-created being are reflected in Parade's End.

The final chapter applies phenomenology to Ford's literary theory, an early version of reader-response criticism, a literary school of thought which comes from phenomenological philosophy. Three central relationships appear in Ford's critical writings: the relationship between the writer and the word, epitomised by the removal of authorial presence; the relationship between the reader and the writer, marked by humbleness on the part of the writer; and the relationship between the reader and the word, a relationship based on surprise. Etch of these relate back to Ford's major intent, to become the neutral author. Ford's criticism shows his consciously applying the basic ideas of phenomenology to his own writing, allowing readers to arrive at their own subjective interpretations of life as presented in the novel.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles