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Dorothy Richardson and the Poetics of Silence

Publication Date
  • Silence
  • Dorothy Richardson
  • Quakers
  • Novel Aesthetics
  • Modernism
  • Languages And Literatures
  • Communication
  • Philosophy


Unlike most modernist fiction, Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage not only recognizes but celebrates silence as a strength in life and literature alike. Richardson’s silence is one which enables, communicates, and reveals truth. It speaks in a way words never can; ‘real speech can only come from complete silence’, as Miriam concludes (III, 389). This article explores the role silence plays in Pilgrimage. Starting by exploring the author’s philosophy of silence as it is represented and discussed in her writings, the paper will then proceed to examine the relation of silence to the poetics Miriam develops over the course of the novel-sequence. To Miriam, silence in literature, like silence between people, represents experiences that move beyond words, and speaks to the reader’s intuition through an act of recognition.

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