Christina Rossetti Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Commonplace, and Other Short Stories (1870) suggests that Christina Rossetti (roh-ZEHT-ee) may have once had the notion of becoming a novelist. Unlike other female poets of the period, she wrote a great deal in prose, both secular and religious. “Commonplace,” the title story, is not usually considered to be the best of these prose pieces. That honor is reserved for “The Lost Titian,” the plot of which revolves around two friends’ competitive praise for another friend’s painting. In the end, all three discover one another’s vanities. “Vanna’s Twins” is a touching story of childhood and demonstrates Rossetti’s power in delineating character among lower-middle-class Italians. Speaking Likenesses (1874), a series of stories told to some girls by their aunt as they pass the time sewing, stands in the shadows of Lewis Carroll’s and Jean Ingelow’s works of the same period.

Annus Domini (1874) is a devotional prose work, the first of several, which includes a prayer for each day of the year. These pieces were influenced by The Book of Common Prayer. Other devotional works include Seek and Find, 1879; Called to Be Saints, 1881; Letter and Spirit, 1882; Time Flies, 1885; The Face of the Deep, 1892; and Maude, 1897.

Christina Rossetti Achievements

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Soon after the publication of Goblin Market, and Other Poems, the British Quarterly Review, a highly respected literary journal of the day, commented that all the poems were “marked by beauty and tenderness. They are frequently quaint, and sometimes a little capricious.” Christina Rossetti was praised in her time for the clarity and sweetness of her diction, for her realistic imagery, and for the purity of her faith. She was widely read in the nineteenth century but not often imitated. The latter is true perhaps because she did not introduce innovative techniques or subject matter. She is not read widely today, either, and is usually treated as a minor poet of the Victorian period, being eclipsed by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his fellow Pre-Raphaelite writers. Perhaps the simplicity of Christina Rossetti’s faith seems remote and unrealistic to many contemporary readers, but this fact should not diminish her artistic contributions. Andrew Lang, in The Cosmopolitan Magazine, June, 1895, left this judgment: “For the quality of conscious art and for music and colour of words in regular composition, Miss Rossetti is unmatched.”

Christina Rossetti Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

What was the impulse that began the Pre-Raphaelite movement to which Christina Rossetti contributed?

“Goblin Market” was once considered primarily as one of Rossetti’s children’s poems. What features of the poem suggest that she did not intend it particularly for children?

Examine the theme of sisterhood in “Goblin Market.”

Many sonnet sequences are not as well connected as Rossetti’s. Comment on the structure of “Monna Innominata: A Sonnet of Sonnets.”

Examine and characterize the tone of Rossetti’s death poems.

Rossetti and Emily Dickinson were both born in 1830, and both succeeded as lyric poets. Their poems differ in many ways; in what ways are they similar?

Christina Rossetti Bibliography

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Christina Rossetti. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004. This collection contains essays on poetic fantasy, “Goblin Market,” and the influence that Christina and Dante Rossetti had on each other.

Chapman, Alison. The Afterlife of Christina Rossetti. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Analyzes Rossetti’s work and considers the history of her reception.

Charles, Edna Kotin. Christina Rossetti: Critical Perspectives, 1862-1982. Selinsgrove, Pa.: Susquehanna University Press, 1985. Shows how literary criticism has changed in the last 120 years and how these changing attitudes have affected the way in which Rossetti’s poems are perceived. Many nineteenth century reviewers concentrated on her religious poems, whereas modern critics focus on her works of fantasy.

Clifford, David, and Laurence Roussillon, eds. Outsiders Looking In: The Rossettis Then and Now. London: Anthem Press, 2004. Essays on the Rossettis, including Christina, that examine aspects of their lives and works.

Hassett, Constance W. Christina Rossetti: The Patience of Style. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005. This analysis of the works of Rossetti examines questions of desire in “Goblin Market,” and looks at her sonnets and Verses (1893).

Jones, Kathleen. Learning Not to Be First: The Life of Christina Rossetti. Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, England: Windrush, 1991. An illuminating biography of Rossetti, both product and victim of the Victorian era’s social and religious standards. Includes bibliography and index.

Marsh, Jan. Christina Rossetti: A Writer’s Life. New York: Viking Press, 1995. A biography that explains Rossetti’s recurrent bouts of depression, traces her ties to London’s literati, and discusses her place in the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Mayberry, Katherine J. Christina Rossetti and the Poetry of Discovery. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989. Mayberry maintains that Rossetti was a meticulous professional writer and not merely a talented amateur. She argues that Rossetti wrote about her role as a woman and therefore was an early feminist. Includes an index and a bibliography.

Roe, Dinah. Christina Rossetti’s Faithful Imagination: The Devotional Poetry and Prose. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. An analysis of Rossetti’s poetry that focuses on the devotional works, which are often ignored in critiques of her work.

Rosenblum, Dolores. Christina Rossetti: The Poetry of Endurance. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987. Rosenblum is the first to analyze thoroughly the text of Rossetti’s poetry in the light of the new feminist criticism. She especially examines the significance of “Goblin Market,” the themes of which are central to all Rossetti’s works.