Susan Gevirtz


B.A., The Evergreen State College, 1997
Ph.D., Interdisciplinary Studies, University of California at Santa Cruz

Susan Gevirtz book
Publication Type


Latest Publication Title

Narrative's Journey: The Fiction and Film Writing of Dorothy Richardson, Peter Lang, 1996

Publication Excerpt

From Narrative's Journey: The Fiction and Film Writing of Dorothy Richardson:

In Pilgrimage we do and do not meet a main character named Miriam Henderson—she is there when we meet ourselves in the act of reading and so she is never actually there without us. To name a book Pilgrimage is similar to calling it Motion Towards the Sacred—and since in the case of Pilgrimage the sacred happens to be language and writing, to name this book Pilgrimage was like titling it Reading.

A community of reading writers exists on the page, there ignited. This is a visceral and secularly religious event. It is, I believe, an event not to be sought or avoided. If one assumes that all writing is committed in relation to other writing, then the interpretation of any work has always already taken place. The interpretation is an intervention, a response, of its time, in its time— a reading that is always a set of circumstances located somewhere. The world is an already-interpreted place always ready for interpretation. 

I have opened Pilgrimage, again and again, as if its title were Reading. So I have expected that it would be a perpetual invitation to investigate and encounter the motion and nature of reading, or, as Miriam Henderson puts it,"the part about the journey." In this case, the title Pilgrimage also gestures toward a book whose subject is a reading arriving again and again at the shrine of itself. That is, a reading that has many origins and constantly evokes rereading. In this book, then, I take the subject of Pilgrimage to be my reading of it, the history of that one's reading, but also the reading histories of the many others that precede, collide, coincide with and have informed mine. Whether I or any other, the reader of Pilgrimage is always its subject. All of these readings and readers also meet the many passages in Pilgrimage in which we witness Miriam in the act of reading and responding to books. I read Miriam herself as the character of reading as much as the character of an actual woman. In the midst of this honeycomb of readings my question repeatedly proposes itself: How and why does Pilgrimage produce more reading and writing?

In pursuing this question I have been interested in an approach that does not embrace the contextless communion of the old new criticism or the conventions of argument. While theoretical apparatus has been extremely useful throughout these investigations, I have not attempted to speak from any one theoretical position or to provide a consecutive argument. My purpose rather has been to animate concurrent readings, to open fissures, and to propose directions for thought. My investigation proceeds as much by analogy and association as by linear logic. To overlay a single theoretical framework or critical mode on the reading of Pilgrimage and the "Continuous Performance" writings would be to ignore and obscure the theories of reading and poetics that are developed and proposed in the work itself. Instead, it is Richardson's articulation of her theories of reading, writing, and viewing, as well as that which is present and unarticulated, which I wish, by this approach, to feature.

The focus of this book is not primarily, or only, on Pilgrimage or on the late 1920s "Continuous Performance" columns about the early silent cinema, but on the conversation between them. My intention is to investigate and analyze some of the textual relationships that arise in setting this constellation of Richardson's writings in the vicinity of one another. In an attempt to demystify and reveal, I have been most interested in the counterpoint that occurs between the two kinds of writing, the ways in which this ambidextrous writing project of Richardson's allowed or required that secrets be kept, lies be made. I have been interested, as well, in the function of and reasons for Richardson's invention of this particular kind of silent cinema in her "Continuous Performance" columns. In juxtaposing and comparing passages and techniques from both, I hope to illustrate the ways in which the writings on cinema articulate a poetics that is practiced as a "filmic" prose writing in the novels.

An investigation of Richardson's aesthetic practice and theories may shed some light on current relations to language, writing and reading, particularly in connection with issues of form and gender. Richardson's concerns and aesthetic innovations are manifest in what she called the "feminine" silent film, and in the technique she referred to as "feminine" prose. Both names suggest the analyses of the relations between gender, writing and viewing with which her work is redolent. These concerns dovetail with a more contemporary feminist view that the form of any writing or representation registers its particular relation to the complex social hierarchy in which it is produced. I have attended not only to what Richardson has said about the "feminine," but equally to the way in which the forms and structures of her work present a politics, a cultural relation. Throughout the writing of this book the how has been of as much interest as the what. In telling the story of my reading of Richardson's work, I have focused attention on that which is doubled, tripled, always becoming, disappearing, and asking for more. This has been my chosen field of conflict and the mode I have heard "... suggested or imposed by the subject itself."