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Dorothy M. Richardson (Dorothy Miller Richardson) Biography

(1873–1957), (Dorothy Miller Richardson), Pilgrimage, Life and Letters, Close Up, Journey to Paradise, Pointed Roofs

British novelist, born in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. An important and long-neglected British modernist, Richardson is best known for her influential and original work Pilgrimage, which was published in parts, as eleven separate novels, between 1915 and 1935, then reissued as a single novel, in four volumes, comprising twelve ‘chapter novels’ (Richardson's own term) in 1938. A thirteenth novel, probably unfinished, was added to the posthumous edition in 1967. Closely based on Richardson's own life, Pilgrimage is the story of Miriam Henderson from the early 1890s, when she is 17, until 1915, when she is about 40 and just beginning her career as a writer. Miriam has grown up in a wealthy family in which her father has sold the inherited family business to live as a ‘gentleman’. When the novel begins the family is nearly bankrupt, and Miriam is leaving to begin a life of supporting herself in poorly paid ‘women's work’—as a teacher, governess, and dental secretary. She is also involved in various political groups, attending lectures, reading widely, and exploring her perceptions of the physical and social world around her. Later, she lives in a Quaker community and becomes interested in notions of communication through silence (Richardson published two studies of Quaker ideas in 1914). Several of the male characters want to marry her, but Miriam remains single. Her most intense emotional relationship is with another woman. Pilgrimage is also a novel about the act of writing. The first literary work to be described as using ‘stream of consciousness’ techniques (a term which Richardson herself rejected), it employs complex narrative strategies which change considerably over its 2,000 pages. Richardson also wrote for various journals, such as Life and Letters, and film journals such as Close Up. Her stories and autobiographical sketches were collected and republished under the title Journey to Paradise (1989). Described as ‘a writer's writer’, Richardson was at the forefront of modernist innovation in narrative. Pointed Roofs, the first book of Pilgrimage, was written in 191213 and is almost contemporaneous with key works of Joyce and Proust, with which Richardson's writing is often compared. Her friends included H. G. Wells (who is portrayed as Hypo Wilson in Pilgrimage), Bryher, Hilda Doolittle, and John Cooper Powys. Contemporary feminist critics find her work particularly interesting for its exploration of gender, subjectivity, and narrative.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: John Rhode to Jack [Morris] Rosenthal Biography