Richardson’s In-Between Spaces

It isn’t so easy to find words for a concentrated sort of illumination that comes from reading Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage, a sense as one progresses through the book that one is learning to read her work, and, in turn, understanding something new about others and oneself.

That Kübler-Ross model, much criticised today, the notion of stage theories of grief, superseded by this idea that we live in a state of middle knowledge, not really truly living but unable to acknowledge the reality of death. An absence of certainty: is reality socially constructed, or objective? Richardson teaches us that it is both, that women intuit these in-between spaces more readily than men.

In a fascinating essay Tim Parks writes that novels may “open our eyes to different worlds of feeling from our own”. Richardson, more than any other writer I’ve read, articulates a part of life that escapes and exists unnamed. For obvious reasons, it isn’t always clear but she is writing of in-between spaces, a world where science and language are incomplete. In Pilgrimage, she is mapping a shadowy geography of interstices that defy our certainties and that shelter life left out from a more open and sunlit terrain.

10 thoughts on “Richardson’s In-Between Spaces

  1. A great post that captures the nuances of Richardson’s writing. I find myself rereading passages often. I am almost finished with the first Virago volume which contains the first three chapters.

  2. This is a lovely post, the idea of reading to articulate the un-named. The idea of the middle knowledge is also very intriguing. I am adding Richardson to my list…

  3. Been meaning to comment on your Richardson posts. I’m very interested to read her now (although it will take me some time to get to her books), especially as she offers a sustained reading project, and a progression of sorts to discover. Really enjoying the hints and passages you are sharing as you read through Pilgrimage.

    • I’m decisively past the half way mark now, a month into this reading project. It seems a suitable time to break to read Fromm’s biography of Richardson. Pilgrimage is an extraordinary experience. The immersion is very rewarding.

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