2.3 EXCLUSION

Although some of Christina Rossetti’s earliest verses were published in The Germ, a magazine produced for a short time by the Pre-Raphaelites, and she sat as a model for several of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s paintings, she was not a member of the movement. Christina Rossetti is perceived as a shadowy figure on the outskirts of Pre-Raphaelitism.

Most of modern commentators on the movement┬á usually evade any discussion of the relations between Pre-Raphaelitism and the aesthetics that inform Christina Rossetti’s poetry.

One of the most helpful modern critics of Pre-Raphaelitism, Cecil Lang, feels compelled to ignore consideration of her work under the general rubric of “Pre-Raphaelitism” when he is using it strictly as a critical, rather than an historical, term. Within his “descriptive definition” of Pre-Raphaelite writing as “visualized poetry of fantasy” or “fantasy crossed with realism,” he excludes “nearly all the poetry of Christina Rossetti”. Such exclusion is imperative, Lang claims, in the service of “nuances of appreciation” and making “nice discriminations.” Lang does, of course, retain a sampling of Christina Rossetti’s verse in his historically founded anthology of Pre-Raphaelite poetry. As we shall see in later chapters, such discriminations do indeed need to be made in order fully to understand how Rossetti’s poetry serves, ultimately, as a critique of the values of her era very different in focus and ideology from the critique supplied by her brother Dante, or by Morris and Swinburne. Yet, as is already clear, Rossetti’s own contemporaries, when viewing the literature of their age critically, very often made no “nice discriminations” between the central aesthetic of her work and that which shapes the poetry of the other Pre-Raphaelites.



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