Christina Rossetti used to be thought to be the ideal female poet of her time. Her poetry used to be devotional, moral, and spoke of frustrated affection.
Dolores Rosenblum presents a fresh reading of Rossetti’s works and places them within the context of her life. Rosenblum shows that what used to be ostensibly devotional, moral, and loveless, used to be if truth be told what Luce Irigaray calls “mimetism,” a subtle parody and subversion of the male tradition of literature.
Only with the coming of feminist criticism can Rossetti be meaningfully re-evaluated. Rosenblum calls Rossetti’s works the “poetry of endurance,” stating that it is the same, and now and then an identical, to the female “sentimental” tradition in literature. Rossetti endured the constraints of the Victorian female artistic spirit by becoming a “watcher.” Within this self-accepted role, Rossetti used to be ready to carefully and deliberately make a choice artistic self-protection. In her religious poetry, Rossetti transcended, by aesthetic renunciation, the alienation and immobilization forced upon her.
Rossetti’s poetry is filled with paradox; it sings about silence, exposes the poet’s oblivion. From the repining Victorian poet, there emerged a “stone woman.” Rosenblum discusses this passively enduring female figure’s alienation from knowledge and power, and how the myth of self strengthened the lyric voice within her. Because she used to be a woman, she used to be denied the male use of the lyric “I.”
Rossetti’s work is unified, Rosenblum argues, because she used to be a deliberate poet, and by accepting the “burden of womanhood,” she played out what men only symbolized as female in their art. By her mimicry and revision of the male tradition of literature, Christina Rossetti engaged the patriarchal tradition in ways that make it usable for the female experience, and that provide a critique of male objectification of women in art.