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The articulate heart : Christina Rossetti, William Morris, D.G. Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite poetry of love

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O'Reilly, Shelley (1995) The articulate heart : Christina Rossetti, William Morris, D.G. Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite poetry of love. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This thesis concerns silence and confession; the warring impulse in the
poetry of Christina Rossetti, William Morris, and D. G. Rossetti between
the necessity of concealing love and the desire to confess it. Lovers have
always been torn between the desire to keep silent and the desire to
express love and poets have long veered between guardedness and
effusion. Yet in the work of the three poets with whom this study is
concerned we find a reticence mixed with an avowal of love which is
peculiarly their own and peculiarly informative about how these poets
regarded the relationship o~ poetry to love and the relationship of poet to
text.
The tension . between silence and confession is evident in both the
public and personal lyric sequences of the Pre-Raphaelite poets which are
'told' by the poet-singer and their ballads and longer narratives in which
the protagonists, usually women, are given their own voices. These
women confess much in words but their bodily signs are sometimes even
more important than their speech in conveying the sexual and sociopolitical
quandaries in which they find themselves. In their covert
manipulations of the traditional forms, structures and techniques of the
ballad, romance and epic, the Pre-Raphaelites found a freedom to
transgress the accepted boundaries of what could be said about
relationships between men and women and in doing so produced
radically suggestive poetry.
In the first part of this thesis entitled 'Elegies' I examine first-person
lyric seq':lences. Two of these are well known sonnet s_equences: Christina
Rossetti's Monna Innominata and D. G. Rossetti's The House of Life. The
other sequences have for various reasons long remained hidden from
scrutiny. William Morris's 'Seasonal Lyrics' (verses for the months) are
hidden within the morass of The Earthly Paradise. Christina Rossetti's 'By
Way of Remembrance' quartet is a long overlooked, starker and darker
precursor to both Monna Innominata and her striking sequence of Italian
poems posthumously published in Italian by William Michael Rossetti as
II Rosseggiar dell' Oriente (the first complete English translation of which is
included as Appendix A of this thesis) which is perhaps the most
personal and obscure of all the poems treated in this thesis.
These sequences along with a body of nominally public lyrics such as
those which I have designated Christina Rossetti's 'It' poems, and
Morris's fugitive personal lyrics, elegise the death of love whilst
celebrating it as the prime human and poetic experience. All three poets
experiment with poetry as 'love's last gift'. Christina Rossetti, William
Morris, and D. G. Rossetti explore the interconnections between the poetlover
and the love poem. The love poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites is a
sometimes voluble, sometimes 'silent' discourse about the impact of love
and the loss of love on the identity. The lyric sequences rehearse the story
of love's loss alternating bursts of agonised protest with announcements
of stoical acceptance; whilst the riddling personal lyrics probe the causes of
the disintegration of self and at the same time try to reintegrate that self
through the 'self' protection of silence and privacy.
The second part of this thesis is entitled 'Narratives'. I examine how
the male Pre-Raphaelite poet constructs the female lover as a legendary
character. In Pre-Raphaelite painting the ideal beloved is a silent,
beautiful woman 'subtly of herself contemplative'. In Pre-Raphaelite
narrative poetry, particularly balladry, the woman is the lover as well as
the beloved and she often articulates her love with passionate precision.
In Chapter Four I analyse the psychological studies of women in love
found in William Morris's tales of Cupid and Psyche and The Lovers of
Gudrun, and I compare the characters of Guenevere as created by William
Morris and Alfred Tennyson and Iseult as created by A. C. Swinburne,
Tennyson, and Matthew Arnold.
In the last chapter of this thesis I deal with Pre-Raphaelite sexual
fantasy and gender politics in ballads and longer narrative poems. The
Pre-Raphaelites gave themselves great poetic latitude by setting their
ballads in faery lands forlorn; using the conventions of fantasy, dream
and medievalism they wrote poems concerning nuns and maidens,
knights and ladies, and sirens and sorcerers which deliver a rare erotic
charge. These poems combine a strangled cry of desire with a sometimes
brutal modernity of overt symbol- another type of silence and
confession at the heart of the articulation of love in Pre-Raphaelite love
poetry.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Rossetti, Christina Georgina, 1830-1894, Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1828-1882, Morris, William, 1834-1896, Love poetry, English, Pre-Raphaelitism
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Copyright 1995 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1995. Includes bibliographical references

Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2015 03:08
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:55
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