"She was Out in Eternity": Dorothy Richardson's Feminist Revision of Classical Hollywood Cinema in Dawn's Left Hand
Oxner, Alexandra Louise
Under the title “Continuous Performance,” Dorothy Richardson’s contributions to the avant-garde little magazine Close Up advance a new theory of film that, consonant with the general aims of the journal, aimed to preserve and explore alternatives to what has come to be called the classical Hollywood style of film-making. Richardson identified the “dominant prejudices” of film production specifically with the patriarchal structures that also dominated the art of the novel. Investigating film and fiction simultaneously in Dawn’s Left Hand, Richardson implicitly links the two on the basis of their patriarchal structures. In her experimental fictional form she borrows from mainstream film to create a feminist mise-en-scene with which to examine both film and fiction. In this thesis, I pursue two interrelated claims: I argue that Richardson assembles profoundly absorptive scenes composed largely of her characteristically lengthy sentences and that these passages are analogous to the “deep focus” provided by a camera. At the same time, rather than soliciting the full immersion of a passive spectator, Richardson’s absorptive scenes foster the viewer’s sense of freedom within the imagined world and thus simultaneously promote a form of critical self-consciousness that disrupts the ideological consolidation of the subject often associated with filmic absorption. In Dawn’s Left Hand, Richardson’s mise-en-scene produces a non-hierarchized literary space, one which offers a democratic mode of readership and spectatorship in contrast to the directed gaze that characterized cinematic realism and the classical Hollywood style.