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The strife of words: Violence in the writing of Dorothy Richardson

Westbury, Louisa Minna; (1999) The strife of words: Violence in the writing of Dorothy Richardson. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis examines Dorothy Richardson's thirteen volume novel-sequence Pilgrimage, written between 1913 and 1954. Critical approaches to this work are diverse; however, I was struck by an apparent general contradiction in literary studies of Richardson. While all critics agree that Richardson's writing is fluid in form and celebrates multiplicity, most nevertheless acknowledge psychological conflict in her work, and many use the language of strife in describing her. My thesis focuses on the violence in Richardson's work, making it explicit, rather than implicit, as previous critics have done. I argue that Richardson's fascination with violence is a continuing complex preoccupation, which must be taken into account to modify existing readings of her. I begin by examining The Quakers; Past and Present (1914), arguing that this book not only served as Richardson's apprenticeship as an author, and allowed her to explore her mystical leanings, but it also enabled her to express her preoccupation with violence. I then analyse Pointed Roofs (1914), the first volume of Pilgrimage, comparing Richardson to women writers such as Elizabeth von Arnim, Katherine Mansfield and Violet Hunt, who were fascinated and repulsed by the latent aggression and masculinity of pre-war Germany. I consider the connections between the feminist element and the formal daring of Pilgrimage within the context of feminist fiction of its time, arguing that the linked themes of social and literary rupture constitute forms of violence. I then turn to the significance of London in Pilgrimage, focusing on the accosting of women by men in public spaces, and Miriam's encounters with beggars, with reference to Virginia Woolf, May Sinclair, and H.G. Wells. Finally, I locate the centrality of hatred in Pilgrimage, examining what I term Richardson's 'unreasonable' hatreds - or those which are not explicable in terms of reasonable alibis. I conclude that one of the desired goals of Miriam's and of Richardson's quest is coming to terms with hatred and violence. The character of Jean functions as a check on Miriam's hatreds; Jean is an externalisation of Richardson's own internal drive to suppress hatred.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The strife of words: Violence in the writing of Dorothy Richardson
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Richardson, Dorothy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099967
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