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Dante Gabriel Rossetti & Christina Rossetti Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Artistic Intensity.

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Presentation on theme: "Dante Gabriel Rossetti & Christina Rossetti Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Artistic Intensity."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dante Gabriel Rossetti & Christina Rossetti Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Artistic Intensity

2 Dante Gabriel Rossetti: poet and painter Italian father, English-Italian mother Founder of an significant school of painting, 1848: – Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – avante-garde, anti- establishment – vivid, colourful, lush; harmony in form, symbolic detail poetry, like painting, expresses a harmonious sensibility of intense piety and intense eroticism spiritual & sensual in unity Pagan & Christian in unity

3 The Female Sublime

4 “The Kiss”: Victorian Sexuality Almost impossibly— overbearingly—intense and alive The fullest expression of human sensual experience Looking for extremity (experiential & lexical) to express the sensation By supressing open display, a tensioning of anticipation and an intensity of release. Eros so intense that Death is needed to express the sensation. Body and Spirit become simply dimensions— perspectives—of the same experience/reality Erotic engagement the moment of Spiritual insight: Fire the unifying trope Paradox the mode

5 On Empire & Science The Burden of Nineveh

6 Nineveh’s History & England Nineveh was a major city and the seat of the Assyrian Empire, which existed for more than 1000 years, c. 1800 BC – 627 BC Eventually incorporated the entire middle-east from south- eastern Turkey to the Persian Gulf, and up the Nile river valley as far as Thebes Culturally centred in Victorian England through the Old Testament—Book of Jonah. The British Museum increasingly stored world cultural artifacts. – Egyptian and Middle Eastern archaeology capture public imagination Museum collection, 2 causes: 1. Empire growth and celebration (implicit) 2. The rise of science and scientism (explicit)


8 The Nineveh Sphinx then

9 The Sphinx Now: “Nineveh court”

10 Rossetti & Nineveh’s Sphinx “The Burden of Nineveh” is written from the perspective of a person viewing the entrance of the sphinx into the British Museum Historically, it is uncertain if Rossetti actually witnessed this event; the popular currency of Assyrian excavations could have been his inspiration, at the time of the sphinx’s arrival in London. The poetic sensibility uses the cultural event to stimulate reflection on higher matters: – The nature of Empire (Christian) – Human (and worldly) mortality.

11 Christina Rossetti “A poet before she write it down” Intensely Christian: even more than her brother. Her attraction to the English tradition located in attraction to Anglo-Catholicism: (English Christianity before Henry VIII, before Puritanism—sensuous, sacramental, sacerdotal) Denied Eros to intensify her spiritual life / preserve her artistic vision and capacity

12 “Goblin Market”: insolent power of Victorian poetry Effortless expression Simplistic surface; labyrnthine depth and ramification Simple English folk-tale (pagan) Simple universal moral (Christian) Simple potent enjoyment (child-like) Complex everything else…. That is, VICTORIAN.

13 Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market and the 2 eras readers comparison The common claim—both journalistic & scholarly—about “Goblin Market” is that it shows how naïve Victorian-Era readers were: using such a dark and complex work as children’s fare. I say that it shows exactly the opposite: how naïve Second Elizabethan-Era readers are: the Victorians were fully aware of the dimensions of the poem, and were perfectly comfortable with their children experiencing it. – The Victorians, en masse, were, prima facie, far better readers than the Second Elizabethans are. reading functioned for them as the internet, TV, and film combined do for us. – further, their children experienced violent lives, in many ways Certainly the poem’s malevolence and sensuality is up front not only in the text but in Dante Gabriel’s illustrations.

14 Illustration….

15 Interpretation: “Contoversial”? In our time the word “controversial” is a word of praise for art—in previous Ages, it was a word of condemnation. If one were to say today Goblin Market were a poem of lesbianism, oral sex—no problem. – Men are vile & dangerous: circa ll. 42 & 93 – Oral imagery: ll. 134, 287, 354-61, 468-473, 165-78. Controversial today? Cause outrage? Say this: Rossetti penned a paen to chastity & marriage. – In the Victorian Age, a growth of materialism (industrialism & Darwinism) was accompanied by an intensification of Christian faith & practice… – her vocation was to help ‘fallen women’— E.g. in the year Goblin Market was written (1859) Rossetti did missionary work in a prison for prostitutes.

16 “Venus Verticordia” Dante Gabriel Rossetti Eve and forbidden fruit: – l.81 “Laura stretched her gleaming neck / Like a rush-imbedded swan…” – l.260 ”Her tree of life drooped at the root…” Virgin Mary (Anglo-Catholic semiotics): – l.408-419 Marriage (cf. A Christmas Carol): – ll.313-14 (anticipation), 543- eop. Poetics….

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