Considered by many critics to be an innovator in form, Dorothy Richardson completed all the novels of Pilgrimage during a lifetime of clerical jobs and a writing career that included book reviews, columns, and the extended novel form. Richardson’s formal education was brief, but she read widely in the literature and science of her day. Upon settling in London in 1895, to work as a dental assistant, she met the writer H. G. Wells; through her extended liaison with Wells, Richardson was introduced to the world of writers, feminism, and social criticism. This environment was the foundation of her adult life as well as of her most important work, Pilgrimage.
In Pilgrimage, Richardson located herself as an innovator in the novel form and as a social critic. Pilgrimage marks an attempt to create a new language for writing, a language modernism reveled in. Richardson’s deliberate record of details, conversations, actions, and thoughts reflected her idea that all phenomena were important.
More particularly, Richardson’s experiments in sentence structure support her view of a “female” writing style. As she wrote, “Feminine prose, as Charles Dickens and James Joyce have delightfully shown themselves to be aware, should properly be unpunctuated, moving from point to point without formal obstructions.” Richardson’s complicated and innovative experiments with syntax also mirror the effect that life had on Miriam Henderson, the protagonist of Richardson’s work. In Miriam’s quest for a life both examined and independent, she cannot move, free and unobstructed, as...
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