Richardson, Dorothy (1873–1957) By McCracken, Scott
Dorothy Richardson (17 May 1873–17 June 1957) was an English writer who pioneered experimental modernist prose. Her major work was Pilgrimage, a thirteen-volume narrative. The first part, or ‘Chapter-volume,’ Pointed Roofs, was published in 1915. A collected edition, containing the twelfth chapter Dimple Hill, was published in 1938. The unfinished, thirteenth chapter, March Moonlight, was published posthumously as part of a new collected edition in 1967. Pilgrimage is narrated exclusively through the consciousness of its heroine, Miriam Henderson. The technique is challenging for the reader, who is given little in the way of context or the familiar reference points of nineteenth-century realism. For Richardson, however, it opened the way to a new ‘feminine realism,’ where Miriam’s identity is not bound by the demands of marriage or family. The result is an open-ended, unfinished – and perhaps unfinishable – text, which is as significant in the history of women’s writing as it is for the history of twentieth-century literature. In the 1920s, Richardson’s work was routinely cited alongside James Joyce and Marcel Proust. Her reputation declined after 1945, but revived with second-wave feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. Since that time, critical interest in Richardson has grown steadily, and she now has an established place in the modernist canon.