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Neil Bowen
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BBC - BBC Radio 4 Programmes - In Our Time, Christina Rossetti

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti...

November 26, 2011 at 9:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 26

My library notes on Rossetti:


pp. 140-151

Goblin Market has no hero or heroine. Ford Madox Ford claimed that alone of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, Rossetti alone regarded the theme of love concretely and individually; there was no delicate surface weaving of beauty

“Temptation, in both its human and its theological sense, is the thematic core of Goblin Market. Even more than in Convent Threshold, described by Alice Meynell as “a song of penitence for love that yet praises love more fervently than would a chorus hymeneal,” Goblin Market celebrates by condemning sensuous passion.”

Christina denies that there is an overt meaning to the poem.

The fruit carries the overt symbolic meaning of the forbidden fruit of the Bible, but also a deeper fear of Victorian premature sexuality.

Rossetti’s little men do not take the Grimm- descended guise of personality traits, but of little animals. This is an attention paid to the id, rather than the superego- banality as opposed to social constructs. Sex is presented as animalistic temptation. “The lusciousness of the forbidden fruit and the charm of the little animal-faced goblins are but different aspects of nature, the core of which is sexual passion.” -144

The childlike dictum of ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me’ is paralleled in Virgil’s advice to Dante in il Purgatorio, where the guard must be kept “with the curb tight over the eyes” to avoid corruption through the visual. Lizzie keeps her eyes covered whilst Laura takes a look. It is Laura’s capability for allowance and promiscuity that means that she looks, thus making her irrecoverably susceptible to downfall.

Jeannie’s downfall comes from the fact that “but who for joys brides hope to have / fell sick and died.” Like the undertones in Dracula about the fear of the spread of STIs and the rise of transatlanticism, there is a biological as well as moral foundation for the fear of sex among Victorian society.


Demon and the Damozel, Waldman

In twelfth-century Europe, there was no large distinction between secular and religious theories of love. Kristeva describes how the C12 mystics told of love like a mutual yearning “for what one does not have.” – Kristeva, Tales of Love, 154-55

Rossetti’s invitations to Jesus have underlying phallic and sexual tones to them. Confluents, 1876, -the image of ‘the… rose / doth herself unclose”- the rose symbolising sexual love but also spiritual reception- Isiah 35:1.

Sublimation: a term used by Freud, whereby libido is redirected and displaced towards an aim remote from that of sexual gratification.



Johanna Harrison

December 6, 2011 at 10:10 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 26
Christina Rossetti in Context- Anthony H. Harrison Ruskin said in 1853 in his Edinburgh lecture series that the Pre-Raphaelites aim was in rehabilitating contemporary art and raising it once again to the concepts of spirituality and truth that had formulated art before the advent of Raphael The period between 1848-53 was the period of sacramentalism in PR painting, which transformed into the second generation of Pre-Raphaelite poets who were more concerned with aestheticism. Christina remains closer to the first generation in that she retains the sacramental and deeply religious element to her art- these were deeply Tractarian tendencies Much of Rossetti’s poetry is based on the capacity of nature to produce numinous effects and events- dream visions are common, as is the preoccupation with jilted love and symbolism, as well as medievalism. Through analysing her poetry the links between Pre-Raphaelitism and Tractarianism become clear Newman: “God beholds [us] individually” Topoi (pl of topos: from the ancient Greek, referring to a method or construct of an argument

Johanna Harrison

December 6, 2011 at 10:11 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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