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Letter and spirit: The devotional poetry and prose of Christina Rossetti

Roe, Dinah; (2004) Letter and spirit: The devotional poetry and prose of Christina Rossetti. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Tom Paulin recently commented on Christina Rossetti's devotional poems: 'Although it is helpful to know the biblical sources of these lines, I do not think that they, and indeed most of Rossetti's poetry, are helped by that knowledge'. Despite advances made by feminist critics in the rediscovery and rehabilitation of Rossetti, there remains a critical reluctance to address the role of religion, and specifically of her reading of the bible, in the career of this famously devout poet. The purpose of my project is to demonstrate the effects of religious reading (both the reading of religious texts, and the religious reading of texts) to Rossetti's poetry and thought. My thesis suggests that Rossetti's lifelong practice of religious reading significantly affected her own writing, and the way she responded to the literary and aesthetic movements with which she came into contact - notably Romanticism, Pre-Raphaelitism, and the Tractarian movement, all of them the subject of chapters in my thesis. I also discuss her relationship with Dante as poet and precursor, and the questions his work raised for her of translation, allusion, and the relevance of poetry both to contemporary life and to God. The thesis places strong emphasis on Rossetti's devotional prose as an intrinsic part of her achievement as a writer. Works such as Time Flies, Letter and Spirit, and The Face of the Deep combine biblical exegesis and autobiography in an attempt to make sense of the complex relationship of God to man and nature, and as a way of negotiating the equally complex task of representing their relationship in language. In both prose and poetry, Rossetti invites her reader to engage with a sophisticated network of biblical allusion, in which Christian doctrine is re-thought and sometimes re-forged. Unless we take this invitation seriously, the thesis argues, we will not take the true measure of Rossetti.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Letter and spirit: The devotional poetry and prose of Christina Rossetti
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Rossetti, Christina
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100049
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