Isabelle Parkinson (Royal Holloway, University of London)


Isabelle Parkinson is a Teaching Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research examines the relations between modernism and democracy, with a focus on the cultural, social and political institutions involved in legitimating and regulating authorship and aesthetic participation. She has published several articles and book chapters, including work on Gertrude Stein’s authorial identity, on the role of the anthology in constructing an avant-garde canon, and on interwar discourses of intellectual disability. Her monograph, Gertrude Stein and The Politics of Participation: Democracy, Rights and Modernist Authorship 1909-1933 (Edinburgh UP) was published in 2023.

Dissenting and Decentering: Dorothy Richardson’s Pedagogy

In the gradual recuperation of Dorothy Richardson within Modernist Studies over the last thirty years, much work has been carried out on the significance of Quakerism for the practice and method of her writing. Scholars have attended, in particular, to the importance of silence, stillness and contemplation in the development of Richardson’s philosophy of mind and in the narrative technique that works it through. This paper continues those explorations and takes them in a hitherto underexamined direction, considering the ways in which Quaker practice as pedagogy informed Richardson’s ideas about education in the early twentieth century. Situating her experience of Quaker practice alongside her engagements in the 1900s and 1910s with anarchism and strands of socialism including Quaker socialism and Fabianism, I examine the influence of progressive conceptions of education for Richardson’s understanding of learning. I will argue that, developing her own experience of Ruskinian education in response to Quaker practices and progressive ideas, Richardson’s pedagogy decentres the teacher and centres on the learning mind of the student. In doing so, Richardson’s conception of teaching and learning decentres a European patriarchal tradition underwritten by positivist epistemology and challenges a pedagogy that she regards as violence enacted on the mind. Focusing on her discussions of Quaker practice and her contributions to the anarchist journal The Open Road, this paper explores the ways in which her developing pedagogy is formulated in Pointed Roofs (1915) and Backwater (1916), the first two novel-chapters of her thirteen-volume work, Pilgrimage, and asks what this marginalised modernist can teach us about teaching.