Bachelor of Arts
Women, Poetry, Christina Rossetti, Image
In this paper I will be concerned with one of these more neglected perspectives. I will be looking at the image of women as portrayed in Rossetti's non-devotional poetry, showing that, contrary to what I suppose could be called popular (literary) opinion, her women are often -- and increasingly so -- strong rather than weak, and that Rossetti herself was a conscious observer and critic of the "options" open to the Victorian woman. Given the emphasis that my work will take, I shall also be looking at various aspects of the poet's personal life, some of which have been largely ignored, and others, which, although generally considered by her critics and biographers, merit reinterpretation; I will be looking at them in a different light than that in which they have traditionally been regarded.
Central, also, to her portrayal of women is what Rosenblum has referred to as her use of "doubleness." The veil or mask forced onto woman is not only a symbol of her oppression and the restrictions placed upon her. For Rossetti's women the mask/veil is often a form of protection which enables the woman to observe without herself being seen, to maintain some degree of inner personal integrity. All the while, however, the mirrors that surround many of her women serve as constant reminders that the only escape will often have to be inward; outside they are continually being scrutinized, objectified, framed. The wearing of a mask becomes vital, preventing the revelation of the unconforming living woman underneath -- in short, the unacceptable.
Skoczek, Marianne, "Moving Beyond the Mask: The Progression of Women in Christina Rossetti's Poetry" (1982). Honors Papers. 653.