The Pre-Raphaelites WS 2016/17. Study questions

goblinmarket_illu2While today, Rossetti maidens and roses are the standard kitsch of British museum shops, The Pre-Raphaelite poets and painters are often considered the first artistic “avant-garde” in Victorian Britain. These poets and artists, in their aim to position their work against the artistic mainstream of early Victorianism, reflect currents of the Victorian age both in their aesthetics as well as their themes. A Victorian culture caught between “muscular Christianity” and scientific explosions in all fields, the change of Britain by imperial expansion and industrialization paradoxically prompted in these artists an ideological withdrawal into an idealized European medieval past – at the heights of modernization. At the same time, also social topics found expression in their art and their aesthetics of the “natural”. The female figures in male poets’ and artists’ work, but foremost the poetry of Christina Rossetti reflect the tension concerning reified gender roles in a changing society. Pre-Raphaelite aesthetics found expression through a strong interest in intermedial and intertextual techniques: paintings quote poems, pictures reflect figures and themes of literature in a determination to inscribe the new art into a newly configured legacy of the past. The course unfold these topics via the discussion of poetry and selected paintings in a connection with broader cultural currents. We will focus on the influence of John Ruskin’s aesthetic ideology on his mentees, the pictorial and poetic work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and focus on gender and spirituality in the poems of Christina Rossetti. The course provides the possibility to work with aspects of Victorian culture and society, intermedial and poetry analysis.

On this page, you will find the study questions for our work throughout the wintersemester 2016 at the University of Freiburg.


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IDEAS FOR RESPONSE 3: 600-800 words due 15.02.2017

You can also hand in a print-out of your response.

choose ONE of the following questions (or come up with your own)

  • people aiming for six credits: choose 2 topics and write on both (or one from here and another one from the older options
  1. Photography and Pre-Raphaelitism seem to have had an aesthetic relationship. But what was the criticism leveled at Holman Hunt’s “photographic” aesthetic in his paintings, especially? And what do you think were the painter’s reasons for his pictorial “literalism”?
  2. John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle seem to have been intellectuals whose writings were extremely influential among the Pre-Raphaelite artists. Pick one and describe an aspect of their writing and the influence on art.
  3. Describe one artist (Aubrey Beardsley or Oscar Wilde) and how he reworked the “legacy” of Pre-Raphaelitism. Alternatively, focus on a movement (symbolism, art nouveau)


IDEAS FOR RESPONSE 2: 600-800 words due 19.01.2017

You can also hand in a print-out of your response.

choose ONE of the following questions (or come up with your own):

1. Why was the discourse on the “Fallen Woman” so topical in the Victorian Era? What was the Pre-Raphaelite stance on the topic, in comparison with the status quo?
2. We normally associate the narrative mode with the form of the novel, romance or epic. But itseems to be a transmedial mode. How could you argue for poems, or even pictures, to be narrative?
3. How does “Monna Innominata” interact with the sonnet tradition of Petrarch and Dante?
4. “Goblin Market” has been read as lesbian love story, fantasy, story of redemption and criticism of capitalism. What is your personal reader’s response to this unusual text?


IDEAS FOR RESPONSE 1: 600-800 words due 24.11.2016

You can also hand in a print-out of your response.

choose ONE of the following questions:

1. What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters concerning art? 2. What are the reasons behind Dickens’s assault – why did he find the paintings so ugly and wrong? 3. What is the role of women in the poetry of D.G. Rossetti that we have read? What contrastive ideas of women can be found in “The Blessed Damozel” and “Jenny”, for example? 4. How is the idea of Pre-Raphaelitism reflected in the poetry of D.G. Rossetti?


69 thoughts on “The Pre-Raphaelites WS 2016/17. Study questions


    1. What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters concerning art? 

    The term “Pre-Raphaelite” has its origin in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group founded in London in 1848 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt. These three artists, tired of the British Royal Academy traditions inspired by the Renaissance that dominated the British world art, decided to gather in London in order to create this group whose main target was to create their own style inspired by the Middle Ages. They admired especially those artists before Raphael. This is the reason why they decided to use the term ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ for their brotherhood. These three founders were subsequently joined by William Michael Rossetti, Thomas Woolner, James Collinson and Frederic George Stephens.

    Some of the main features regarding the art of the Pre-Raphaelites were the use of bright colours, plentiful detail (they sought to imitate nature) as well as the use of complex images. They completely rejected the standards of beauty and decorum that were predominant during the Victorian era in which, for instance, women were depicted with small hands and feet as well as oval faces, features that can be related to innocence, whereas the depiction of men was characterised by straightness, quite different from the ladies. These kind of features reflected then what is called “major beauty” in men, characterising the male figure as heroic and sublime; and “minor beauty” in women, features that established the female idea of beauty. However, not only did they reject these standards of beauty, but also they showed an utterly rejection towards the advice offered by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the Royal Academy of Arts, who said that artists should improve the imperfections found in nature in order to create an “Ideal Beauty”.

    Although there are positive criticism and admiration toward the works of the Pre-Raphaelites as, for instance, the criticism from John Ruskin, an English critic art; their works were indeed strongly criticised. Critics absolutely rejected the fact that their art was deviated from the Victorian standard idea of beauty.

    Whereas during the Victorian era, the rest of artists tried to reflect these standards, the Pre-Raphaelites seemed to show disdain towards them. On the contrary, they seemed to enjoy reflecting the ugliness, thus copying precisely what is reflected in nature. This is indeed the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite painters concerning art, the fact that they preferred to reflect in their works ugly faces and unharmonious figures as well as images that can disturb the viewers. Additionally, they also tended to portray human flesh in a way that made them seem to reflect sickness or any other health disorder. In other words, they absolutely rejected portraying beautiful faces or well-proportioned hands and feet. They preferred to portray how nature actually is, not conventions that did not reflect the reality around them.

    On the other hand, it is important to highlight that the rejection towards the advice offered by Sir Joshua Reynolds mentioned above supposed a consideration of the developments that were taking place during their time in such fields as science, literature, philosophy, medicine, etc. At that time, there was a proliferation of books about human nature and conduct. Among them are Face Reading: With Hints on Love or Courtship and Marriage. It was because of these books that Victorians began to believe that they could know about the intentions of other people just looking at them, regarding such studies as phrenology and physiognomy, which considered that the human character could be decipher according to the measure and shape of the human brain. People of that time thought that disease and physical appearance were connected. However, this was completely objected by the Pre-Raphaelites. They did not think that a good character had to be accompanied by a harmonious appearance. In fact, this was what was strongly criticised by viewers who could not understand this Pre-Raphaelite point of view.

    In conclusion, the Pre-Raphaelites and their idea of beauty supposed a complete challenge to the pre-established standards of beauty that artists and people of the Victorian era were used to. However, despite of the constant criticism they received towards their works, they were also admired and their portraits recognised and, additionally, their works were a source of inspiration for artists after the dissolution of the brotherhood in 1853.

    1. Generally good observations – but do you really think that the artists wanted to paint ugly faces? Or was it not rather the preconceptions about beauty at the time that made audiences perceive realistic faces as ugly, because noone was used to realistically portrayed faces?

      1. Personally, I do not think that those were artists’ intentions. I think that their intention was to express the reality through their paintings. However, that was something that people of that time were not used to. They were used to see beautiful and well-proportioned faces and figures in paintings, so everything that did not follow these standards was seen as ugly.

  2. Thoughts on study question 1. What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters concerning art?

    To receive a general understanding of ones artistic works, one should look into the personal background and into the character of the artists. The Pre-Raphaelites were founded 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and was extended to a group of seven that would call themselves members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They were united by their mutual disapprovement towards the clean and sterile way art was seen and used by the academic schools, meaning in popular culture.
    Their name underlies the rejection of the Royal Academy’s promotion of the Renaissance master Raphael whose work was seen as classic and popular culture. The Pre-Raphaelites, however, saw the ideal which was to pursuit in the art of the late Middle Ages, before Raphael, leading to the “Pre” in Pre –Raphaelites.

    One of the main ideas was to put nature back in relation to art and realism. This being in contrast to the art of the late Middle Ages was ignored because of the believe of the consistency between both. Nature and its realism was very important to them and so they tried to find new techniques to express the colourful way and the realistic feeling of nature. One technique was the painting of a white base before painting on it with oil-based paint. Realism and nature were connected in a way that they would drive hours to places just to see and feel how they look like. Their pursuit of realism went so far that they would hazard the consequences that could happen to a person while lying in a cold bathtub for hours just to have a real model for the painting “Ophelia”. Elizabeth Siddal, who did that, got dangerously sick afterwards. Paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites were often referred to photographic realism.

    Another very important aspect of their art was written down in their manifest. It was „to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote“. This conveys the meaning, that one should be free of prejudices and rules that were told by others but rather life up to one’s feelings towards something. They started to speak of topics in their society that were not talked about or about things that were likely disapproved by the popular culture. Such as deceases and also the ideal of beauty that was “not to change”. They started to paint the exact opposite of what was seen as “classic”, “clean” and “conventional” and to put meaning that went beyond the picture, beyond the assumption of the Victorian Age that a work of art is always supposed to convey beauty.

    Looking forward they got to make a huge impact in various movements, like the Impressionists or l’Art nouveau. They influenced British culture especially in the Victorian age and there are still features of them appearing in modern arts.

    When thinking of the Pre-Raphaelites there is always one quote that comes to my mind. It is from the book “Eleanor & Park” that is written by Rainbow Rowell.
    “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” In my opinion this is what the Pre-Raphaelites had as their main idea. They wanted to bring back the passion and emotion that got lost because of institutions telling people what to feel or what to paint. They wanted to link art and life back together, to show how close body and soul are connected and how there is more to beauty than craniology or smallness or even health.

  3. 1. What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters concerning art?

    The term pre-Raphaelite initially emerged with the foundation of the Pre-Raphaelites brotherhood in 1848. The brotherhood consisted of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and two fellow students John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, who decided to overturn British Art. The colleagues at the Royal Academy of Art were not satisfied with the academic rules concerning art and how it was approached. Therefore they started to revolt against the approach to established art of the Victorian ages. In a move to restore meaning to art they decided to paint moral significant subjects drawn from literature and the Bible. This group of young students had a big influence on art in the period of late medieval to the early Renaissance age.

    The main idea of capturing life how it was built up a bold new realism in British Art. The Pre-Raphaelites preferred to depict lifelike scenes rather than idealized ones. Their subjects could also be of nobel, religious and moralizing nature, but leading to the real life. This new form of art was an occasion to provoke in the time of the Victorian age. During this time the focus in art was more on depicting the idea of an ideal beauty. Women were seen as innocent, maiden-like and were subject for looking beautiful. They were painted with oval faces and small feet and hands, whereas the men stood for strength and straightness.
    The Pre-Raphaelites have defied convention applying new realism to religious pictures, as to be seen in the famous painting Christ in the House of His Family. The realistic image of dirty and damaged hand and feet of Jesus and also Lady Marry was seen as shocking.
    The way Pre-Raphaelitian works were composed, it was seen to break all the rules of composing paintings. The almost photographic sense of detail was a shock for the people in the Victorian era, which were grown up on more paintally approaches.

    Another feature of Pre-Raphalitian art is their transformation of landscape painting with a microscopical examination of the natural world. The heart of this was to depict the nature how it is with a kind of scientific fidelity. This also referred to the revolutionary times, where the worth of science raised. Traditionally landscape painting was executed in the studio from sketches. The Pre-Raphaelites made excursions by taking advantage of the new railroads, to be able to paint the nature how it really is. Their paintings look like a picture through the eye of a camera. The desire of realistic images was that big, that they used models for all scenes. Regardless of all consequences. Even for the famous painting Ophelia John Everett Millais used a model called Elizabeth Siddal, who had to lay in a bath tub for hours just to get this sense of realism onto the painting. She got really sick afterwards.

    John Ruskin, an famous art historian during the time of the beginnings of the Pre-Raphaelites sided with the young students and brought their innovative idea to a point as he said: „great art is the work of the whole living creature, body and soul, and chiefly of the soul.“ He understood their idea of realistic art what can be seen when he wrote: „Art is not a study of positive reality, it is the seeking for ideal truth.“
    For me, these quotations show really good what was meant by the new form of art created by Millais, Hunt and Rossetti.

    In the midst of a revolution spreading across Europe, the Pre-Raphaelites fired by the political changes around them, managed to transfer these breaks also to British art. They saw the time for change and stood in for their belief in a modern, different art. They felt the urge to depict the real life how it was and created proximity between art and people. Although they were criticized for their works and their revolutionary ideas, they had an important impact on art. They have engaged with the scientific thinking of the age. Although they were so young they head the British art in a new direction. Up to these days they are famous for the realistic nature of their works and their influences are seen in modern art.



    2. What are the reasons behind Dicken’s assault- why did he find the paintings so ugly and wrong?

    The points about the tastelessness and oddity produced by Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais’s Christ in the House of his Parents were published in Household Words by Charles Dickens.

    Dickens damned the characterization of Jesus as a “hideous, wry-necked,
    blubbering red-haired boy” and his mother “so horrible in her ugliness that…
    she would stand out from the rest of the company as a Monster, in the vilest
    cabaret in France or the lowest gin-shop in England.” For abstract beauty and
    spirituality, Millais, according to Dickens, substituted an irreligious assembly
    of under-fed low-life types such as “might be undressed in any hospital where
    dirty drunkards, in a high state of varicose veins are received. Their very toes
    have walked out of St. Giles.” [1]

    In Millais’s painting, the figures depict the holy family as ugly, dirty and diseased ones working in a carpentry. Not only the grotesque physical features of holy family but also the low conditions of their life are too much for Victorian people who were accustomed to seeing the conventional norms of beauty and grace reflected in art.

    Pre-Raphaelite’s creation of a new pictorial language of beauty/non-beauty and the subsequent radical critics upon it reveal that the existing concerns of Victorian people with disease and deformity, ugliness and vulgarity and suggest the notion of class structure, gender roles and etiquette in “high art.” Thanks to the rise of science and technology, Victorians believed that they could “decipher the intentions and characters of other people”[2] through the schematized good and bad physical features which were corresponded with mental and moral qualities. Charles Dickens also subscribed to this idea in his novels that provided characters with a full set of physical attributes to be interpreted by readers. That’s why according to him, PRB exhibition and especially Millais’s painting of the holy family is nothing more than an irreligious, abstract exaggeration, since such a depiction also says a lot more things about deformity in the character of holy family in relation to disgustful facial and bodily features.

    On the other hand, encoding human types in Victorian age “reinforced the social order and contemporary British attitudes to class and race in a seemingly rational disguise. Crime, goodness, nationality, sex differences, Anglo-Saxon supremacy¬- all could be explicated through such inductive…”.[3] Dickens’ ultimate hatred towards the devil, sinister red-haired boy in Millais’s painting also underlines the imperial discourse of power that created a strong typology, which puts young Jesus in the painting in a position of a Irishman. Since the Irish belongs to the very bottom line of that hierarchy not like Anglo-Saxon character, Dicken’s damnation of Christ in the House of his Parents seems like plausible.

    However, here Millais actually made a combination of everyday scene with a holy expression. Rather than depicting the holy family in a disgraceful way, Millais just showed them as human beings not as spiritual ones, which the latter makes the whole discourse of holy family is further away from daily life thanks to the unattainableness. Here, it just feels like them coming a bit closer to actual life and in this way, spirituality can exist together with the actual.

    [1] Susan, P.Casteras. “Pre-Raphaelite Challenges to Victorian Canons of Beauty” p.18
    [2] Ibid., 15.
    [3] Ibid.

    – Casteras, Susan, P. “Pre-Raphaelite Challenges to Victorian Canons of Beauty.” Huntington Library Quarterly, 24 Oct. 2012, pp.13-35.

    1. Yes, it is important to note how the everyday and the holy were put into the representation of a transcendental presence – at least that was the aim of Millais, I suppose. But, for the reasons you also stated, most of his contemporaries could not see this in the painting.

  5. What are the reasons behind Dickens’s assault – why did he find the paintings so ugly and wrong?

    Upon the exhibition of John Everett Millais Christ in the House of His Parents at the Royal Academy in 1850 many voices within London’s intellectual elite were being raised as to discuss the paintings very right to exist, especially in such a context. In his 15 June 1850 issue of Household Words, Charles Dickens famously tears apart the picture, reflecting the common discourses of the time about the definition of fine art.
    As their name suggests, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood understood itself as a collective of artists that were looking back at painting styles and objectives as they were used in the times prior to the period of Raphael – or, at least, what they themselves found valuable within these bodies of work. Abandoning the heavily elevated painting style that set the tone during that time in Victorian England, they sought to go back to a medieval simplicity. They rejected the academic teaching of fine art developed by artists that succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo and whose classical maxims had characterized the painting style of Victorian art up to that time. For John Ruskin, one of the intellectual fathers of Pre-Raphaelitism, the quasi romantic reminiscence of craftsmanship and artisan work meant to abandon a conception of art that was built on a normative but meaningless beauty. It is this asymmetrical style of painting with that the Pre-Raphaelites sought to challenge the establishment and that to many critics had seemed ‘grotesque’.
    For Dickens, the painting by Millais appears equally ugly. He describes Jesus, as represented in the painting, as “hideous, wry-necked, blubbering, red-headed boy”, who “ha[d] been playing in an adjacent gutter” [1]. The Virgin Mary, kneeling before her son, seems to Dickens “so horrible in her ugliness, that (supposing it were possible for any human creature to exist for a moment with that dislocated throat) she would stand out from the rest of the company as a Monster, in the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest ginshop in England.” [2] For Dickens and other critics, the depiction of especially this religious subject-matter was on the verge of blasphemy; the holy family assembled of bodies that were unfit, decaying, sick. He was right by asserting that the picture symbolized a “subversion of all known rules and principles of perspective” [3] the Royal Academy of Arts enforced.
    Deriving from Social-Darwinist thoughts and other emerging pseudo-sciences, the Victorian mindset basically expected a definite connection between physical and psychological well-being. Especially in Dickens writing, physical descriptions stood in close correspondence to the moral and spiritual nature of a character. Based on these trains of thought, the depiction of the holy family would immediately suggest a sickness of mind, an illness and corruption that sleeps within the most admired biblical figures whose example was thought to educate everyone’s sense of morality. Rejecting that notion, Millais had naturalistically painted persons that could easily be found in the streets, not indicating their sainthood or even god-likeness through appearance, but through symbolism. Even though red hair was believed to belong to the inferior race of the Irish hooligan, Millais had created a Jesus with this physical trait, suggesting to Dickens and other Victorians either a kind of inherent savageness to Christ or subverting the notions of physiognomy – rendering the connection between appearance and mind arbitrary. Both statements in their own way undermine the ideological strategies Victorian people had desperately employed to secure their own discourses about identity. In a world in which a bony and yellowish woman could be interpreted as the Mother of God, previously applied dichotomies and dualisms lose meaning, ultimately challenging the secure and easily established distinctions between what is the good, Christian English Self and the bad, pagan Other.

    [1] Dickens, Charles. “Old Lamps for New Ones.” Household Words 12 (1850): 12-14. Print.
    [2] Ibid.
    [3] Ibid.

  6. Thoughts on study question 4 “How is the idea of Pre-Raphaelitism reflected in the poetry of D.G. Rossetti?”

    The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of painters and poets present in die middle years of the nineteenth century. Their mutuality concerning art in the Victorian era and around the eighteenth century was the conventionality of art as well as the representational rules that govern expressions in art. Due to this mutuality, they developed their own style which was highly controversial at that time. They focused on medieval subjects, artistic introspection, a new understanding and a new interpretation of female beauty and sexual yearning.
    Thus the term Pre-Raphaelitism as it is understood today characterizes movements in English literature and in visual arts. Considerable artists of the original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Everett Millais. But also few other painters and poets joined their group.

    In this response, I want to take a closer look at Dante Gabriel Rossetti and how the idea of Pre-Raphaelitism is reflected in his poetry.

    In fact, Dante Gabriel Rossetti has been one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Before he began painting and writing by himself, he translated works mostly by Italian poets of the twelfth and thirteenth century to English. The character of Rossetti’s poetry was embossed by the discipline and accuracy he developed thanks to translating poets of the early “stil novisti” circle including Dante and Cavalcanti.
    Even though Rossetti is thought to be a poet of love and physical passion, he is also an intellectual writer carrying a distinct set of ideas of the Pre-Raphaelitism. Indeed Rossetti’s idea of Pre-Raphaelitism concerning poetry had an aesthetic value. Not only focused his poetry on details but also on a new relationship between the ideal and the actual regarding transcendental experience as well as actual experience.

    Clearly, Rossetti created a new poetic style for English poetry when at once being influenced by, as already mentioned, the early “stil novisti” circle. His main features were breaking up the end rhyme, using unusual syllabics and bringing a musicality in his poems by form, sound and a heavy use of alliterations. Undeniable he had a specific talent to “paint with words” by emphasizing the pictorial aspect of language and description. This new style, also sometimes called the “sweet style”, is implying that the poems by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood primarily Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s are opposing the traditional English poems around that time. They always aimed to resist the main currents of Victorian aesthetics and helped to popularize the notion of “arts for art’s sake”. Hence their passion for modern writing, especially in poetry was reflected in their own journal The Germ. It contained paintings and reviews just like it contained original poems and essays by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The main interest of them pertained to the beauty and the sound of language.

    Now taking Rossetti’s poem “The Card-Dealer” as an exemplification of how the idea of Pre-Raphaelitism has reflected on poetry one could say, that especially the stress on the interconnections between literature and visual art is reflected very well. The poem is based on Theodor von Holst’s painting “The Fortune Teller” (1840). In other words, the poem also functions as a commentary on this picture. Nonetheless, the poem just like the picture itself are very detailed and do not correspond fully. Also very obvious is Rossetti’s distinct new style regarding rhyme as well as musicality. Some alliterations (e.g. line 7) and anaphora are used in the poem (e.g. 5th stanza). The Card-Dealer itself is a metaphor for the deadly game of fate. Therefore an interaction between the striving for modernity and the display of the character of archaism could be found it that poem. Dante Gabriel Rossetti connects the beauty of the femme fatal and death.

    To summarize “The Card-Dealer” is a poem that is both disturbing and successful at the same time, just like the Pre-Raphaelites themselves with their art and literature. They have been accused to illustrate the ugly and grotesque in their works. Nevertheless, they tried to start a poetic and artistic revolution where they replaced old conventions of poetry and art by depicting the natural visible and being as authentic and accurate as they could.
    As a conclusion, it has to be said the idea of Pre-Raphaelitism is always reflected in visual art and literary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their followers. Despite Rossetti has shaped the group’s literary taste after all.
    [1] The Card-Dealer by Dante Gabriel Rossetti:
    [2] Research: Prettejohn, Elizabeth and Isobel Armstrong, et al. The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print.

  7. 1. What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters concerning art?

    In 1848 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, three art students, met and founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Being dissatisfied with the contemporary art, those painters and poets wanted to break the rules of the traditions and conventions and saw themselves as a reform movement, thus rejecting the Victorian Age and welcoming the art of medieval Italian. Finding Raphael’s paintings, composed of classical elements and elegant, soft features, unnatural, the Pre-Raphaelites needed to create a different perspective of art, surpassing the fundamental norms of art and literature of the 18th century.

    First and foremost the Pre-Raphaelites withstood the dominant standards of beauty, decency and etiquette by trying to imitate and to literally reproduce the forms of nature. They sought out the ugliest and meanest elements in order to stand aloof from the Victorian artistic conventions. Thereby they were said to create disturbing visual effects which disgusted many people being used to the perfection and grace of contemporary art. Instead of creating regular faces and delicate hands, Rossetti and his friends were thrilled by figures with phrenologically bulky and chunky heads and coloured the human skin in a rather hideous and cadaverous way. They seemed to be rather fascinated by malformation, disease, abnormality and ugliness, therefore rejecting Sir Joshua Reynolds’ concerns that one should always enhance Nature’s imperfection and produce the most ideal beauty. In contrast to the art of the 18th century, the Pre-Raphaelites did not shape art for the purpose of perfection and grace. Their attempt seemed to merely concentrate on pathology, morbid bodies, dirt and hereditary transmissions.

    Moreover Victorian paintings emphasized on the purity of physical attributes that were crucial to a kind-hearted mind and a lovely character. Due to that any superficial deformity was always thought to be a sign of an awful heart. This understanding was however contested by the Pre-Raphaelites thanks to their discordant vision of art. According to them ill and despicable bodies could definitely coexist with a gentle soul. Ugliness was not a symbol for intellectual or moral flaws, it was simply a part of nature. In addition the PRB was strongly influenced by the realism. It took a real man or woman, copied all of their features and painted very detailed and exact from nature. In doing so, those painters avoided any possible alteration, hence every portrait was authentic and conveyed the feeling of looking at living people.

    Furthermore, feeling threatened by the industrialized world, Millais, Rossetti and Hunt were the first ones to loosen the strict separation of class structures and gender roles. In Hunt’s The Hireling Shepherd for example characters pointed out their blatant sexuality and showed dubious minds which portrayed the appearance and the conduct of the lower class. Additionally the Pre-Raphaelites innovated the concept of minor beauty belonging to women, being delicate, dainty and fragile creatures, and the major beauty for men, which were supposed to be powerful and mighty. These painters thought that both terms could apply to both sexes, exemplifying either sublimity and force or weakness and delicacy. In that sense, they wanted to provoke the stereotypes of femininity, challenging aspects that had been over-idealized, like innocence and tenderness, and adding to their figures controversial traits.

    Hereby the absence of dainty hands and small feet was decisive for women in The Hireling Shepherd, and in Millais’ Mariana women behaved in an unladylike way, for example Mariana who was yawning in a way too informal manner. They were characterized by bad skin and red hair which signified an unpleasant and explosive atmosphere and seemed rather dangerous and ferocious. Nasty and repulsive girls who were stretching inelegantly, were pivotal for Millais’ work Apple Blossoms as well. In Opposition to that statement the women of the Victorian art were dressed in pink and white satin and had silky, light hair.

    In conclusion we can say that the Pre-Raphaelites disliked the past and wanted to head towards the present by using science and medicine in their art and by breaking through the outdated conventions of their time. Their style was repulsive and shocked many viewers, because their paintings were too intense and scandalizing. They were harshly revolting against mainstream art, viewing genders differently and adopting a rather medical and pathological perception of art.

  8. Q1: What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters concerning arts?

    In order to fully understand the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelites, a few words need to be said about the Pre-Raphaelites in general. The Pre-Raphaelites refer to a self-proclaimed brotherhood formed by young London artists in the middle of the 19th century. John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, Thomas Woolner, Frederick George Stephans and James Collinson are all known as members of this congregation. However, the original founders were only three, namely D. G. Rossetti, H. Hunt and John Everett Millais. These young artists united, because they wanted to refrain from the conventions during that time and sought to somehow re-created art as it ‘used to be’ before the period of Raphael (1483-1520). Raphael was an Italian painter and architect and was still considered as the greatest painter of all times during the 19th century. The views of the brotherhood were even published in a magazine called “The Germ”, which was released by them, but did not succeed at all. Interesting about this magazine is, however, the choice of the name. A “germ” is actually a seed and therefore the choice of the name shows a clear reference to nature in the title.

    In addition, the brotherhood formulated four principles:
    • To have genuine ideas to express;
    • To study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
    • To sympathize with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote;
    • And, most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

    In this sense, the Pre-Raphaelites’ painters focused on mediaeval themes, female beauty, sexual longings, artistic self-perception and diversified modes of consciousness. This did not reflect the expectations of art at this time at all. It was actually totally contradictory to these. The brotherhood was, as already mentioned above, united with the purpose to resist exactly those ‘norms’ around that time. However, this movement can be seen in two ways, innovative or retrogressive arts, since they wanted to go back to the ‘norms’ of Raphael’s time.
    Given the fact, that they ‘adored’ Raphael, they tried to ‘follow nature’, meaning that they supported the constitution of simplicity and sincerity of their objects in paintings. This was actually done by flattening perspective, sharpening outlines, bright colors, paying great attention to details, and so on. This idea of putting nature again in relation to art was one of their aims. However, critics in the beginning tended to reject the painted ‘realities’, because the Pre-Raphalites did not hesitate to draw even the ugliest and meanest items of everyday life. This was very disturbing for their critics, but the Pre-Raphealites seemed to enjoy exactly that, the painting of random people or objects that were so far from idealistic, pictures of the real ‘world’.

    Rossetti for example concentrated on paintings of sensual females, for whom he used bright colors, which clearly defied the common Victorian conventions during that time. Here the Aesthetic movement needs to be mentioned, which is also known as the “art for the art’s sake”. This quote determines the artists desire to create paintings simply for admiration. This was of course a clear cut from the tradition of art. Not only did this tendency set them apart from the need of art to be teaching a lesson or transferring any other function besides the beauty of the art itself, but it also affected life in all areas, even home decorating for example.

    To sum up, the Pre-Raphaelites feature the beauty and comparative simplicity of the middle ages, the fidelity to nature, as well as the preference of bright colors, which were used in a symbolic way. And although their brotherhood didn’t last for too long, their ‘movement’ had a huge impact. Despite the fact, that the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites might not seem very modern to us today, they very innovative for their time. Someone could even say, they were ahead of their times.

  9. What are the reasons behind Dickens’s assault – why did he find the paintings so ugly and wrong?

    The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which consisted of several artists many of whom were trained at the Royal Academy of Art, revolutionised British art because of the member’s rejection of the painting style favoured by many British artists in the Victorian age. The groups increasing frustration with British art and the way art was taught at British art institutions led to their famous and unique painting style. They rejected the existing standards of beauty in the Victorian Age and wanted to pursue realism and simplicity as an art form and not simply superficially and aesthetically pleasing art with meaningless themes.

    The collective’s name derives from their inspiration of the Middle Ages and the artists and painting styles which were common in the period before the artist Raphael emerged. These painting styles served as an inspiration to them. However, the Victorians viewed this movement critically.

    Many of their artwork captures famous scenes from literature or the Bible. One of the most famous paintings depicting religious figures from the Bible was John Everett Millais’ Christ in the House of His Parents which was displayed in the Royal Academy in 1850.

    The painting caused a public outcry amongst the Victorian society and Millais was relentlessly criticised by the press. The holy family was depicted as an ordinary carpenter’s family in their home. It was fairly common to idealise religious figures and Millais was indeed going against the norm. He painted the holy family in great detail with swollen hands, wrinkles and uncommonly realistic facial expressions and the carpenter’s shop filled with dirt. Millais’ figures resemble ordinary people in an ordinary setting. Many critics took issue with this ordinary portrayal of the Saints.

    Among the critics was one of the most famous English writers in the Victorian Age: Charles Dickens. However, it seems peculiar that an author like Dickens had an extremely negative response to the painting. In his works, most of the characters are depicted quite realistically and brutally honest. Additionally, Dickens is famous for portraying the horrible living conditions for the working class in the Victorian Age.

    Nevertheless, Dickens published a withering review of the painting in the issue of Household Words in 1850. He mocked the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in an extremely ironic tone. He did not only despise the painting itself but rather the whole movement behind the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He criticised and ridiculed the group’s ideas and principles and even mocks the name of the artist collective.

    Dickens described Jesus as “a hideous, wry-necked, blubbering, red-headed boy”.[1] This does make sense from a Victorian perspective as the red hair was seen as a stereotypical Irish trait, which was regarded as inferior to the British.

    Furthermore, the Virgin Mary is described as “so horrible in her ugliness […] she would stand out from the rest of the company as a Monster”.[2] He added in regard of all the depicted figures that “Wherever it is possible to express ugliness of feature, limb, or attitude, you have it expressed.” [3]
    Dickens’ criticism was quite similar to the public’s reception of the paining. To a prude and virtuous Victorian society this painting was appalling and was regarded as blasphemous as it was not aesthetically pleasing to their eyes and the holy figures were portrayed as ill to them. The Victorians were afraid of diseases and to them that was conveyed through the painting.

    Interestingly in regard to Dickens is that the exterior features of Dickens’ characters always reflected their inner selves. That is not only Dickensian but was the Victorian mindset. If a character or figure is described or portrayed as ugly or common-looking, it could be an indication that the figure lacks good character. An ugly character could therefore be seen as morally corrupt or ill. Physiognomy was perceived as a scientific tool to determine whether a person’s character is good or bad, based on their outer appearance. With this in mind, it is easy to understand why Dickens and most of the Victorian society viewed the painting as blasphemous.

    Although Millais did not intend to suggest that the holy family is morally corrupt or has diseases, the Victorians interpreted it that way and deemed it to be inappropriate.

    [1] Dickens, Charles. “Old Lamps for New Ones.” Household Words 12 (1850): 12-14. Print.
    [2] Ibid.
    [3] Ibid.

  10. 1. What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters concerning art?

    The Victorian Age represents one of the most complex eras of British history. The increasing industrialization, the military expansionism of the British Empire and the social development of the Victorian society represent only a few of the great changes that exercised an important influence on the artistic movements of the 19th century. In this historical context, the Royal Academy of Arts incarnated, especially in the early years of the Victorian Age, the canon of the socially accepted, “Ideal Beauty” – a concept rooted in the theories of phrenology, according to which the physical traits of a depicted subject would reveal his innermost moral qualities (Casteras p.15). As a consequence of this approach, the figures presented by the painters of the Royal Academy tended to be stereotyped in the ideal of “major beauty” for men (whose firm traits revealed the inner strength of the ideal Victorian man) and “minor beauty” for women (in which the delicacy of the traits implied their inner fragility) (Casteras p.27).

    This is the scenario in which new artistic sensibilities developed that did not accept the conventionalized and standardized aesthetic conceptions of the Royal Academy of Arts. One of the first strong signs of criticism against the hegemonial artistic culture of the early years of the Victorian Age was given by a group of three artists, David Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. The three artists gathered in London in 1848 to discuss the principles of a new kind of art, which would distance itself from the idea of the “Ideal Beauty” prescribed by the Royal Academy by representing reality with extreme accuracy and by evoking the motives of the forgotten spirituality of the Middle Ages. With these few simple principles Rossetti, Hunt and Millais founded a new aesthetic movement, which later became one of the milestones for the British aestheticism and realism of the 19th century: the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The name “Pre-Raphaelite” praises the source of inspiration of this new category of artists, who looked back at the biblical motives of the art of the medieval age and recognized in Raphael, one of the most significant painter of the Italian Renaissance, the last great artist of the modern era.

    Finding the source of inspiration in the paintings of the medieval age meant to reawaken an idea of a truer and deeper spirituality. The subjects portrayed by the Pre-Raphaelites were therefore often part of biblical scenes, as for example in D.G. Rossetti’s “Ecce Ancella Domini!” or J.E. Millais “Christ in the House of his Parents”. The moral examples offered by the biblical scenes in these paintings contrast with the superficiality of the moral virtues incarnated in the concepts of minor and major beauty of the Victorian Age, which the painters of the Royal Academy particularly used in their artistic creations.

    Refusing the idea of an art that could be idealised, the Pre-Raphaelites reinterpreted the biblical scenes of the medieval art under the light of a new realism in painting, which prescribed the “truth to nature” (Roe, “The Pre-Raphaelites”). The principle of being “true to nature” did not only concern the representation of nature in the narrowest sense of this word, but, more in general, the representation of reality, which according to this precept had to be portrayed in the exact way in which it presented itself. This new aesthetic convention was therefore valid in the depiction of landscapes, which were portrayed in the most minute details (as for example the different species of flower and the grass in Hunt’s “The Hireling Shepherd”), as well as in the depiction of people, even if this meant to present to the public weak, emaciated figures. The union of the spirituality of the Middle Ages with its biblical motives on one side and the realism of the figures and landscapes on the other side created what was considered to be a shocking result for the public of the Victorian Age.

    “Christ in the House of his Parents” represents in this case one of the most fitting examples to treat simultaneously the new techniques used in the painting of the PRB and the way these drove away from the aesthetic tradition of the Victorian Age. In the painting the extreme brightness of colors meets the extreme darkness of shadows in a technique called chiaroscuro (Roe, “The Pre-Raphaelites”), which was very much loved by rinascimental painters. Mostly evident is how the representation of the Holy Family drives away from the artistic tradition of the time: the red-haired Jesus, the Virgin Mary whose traits stray away from the concept of “minor beauty” and the thin and weak bodies of the figures want to be both symbol of a new, revolutionizing art and a provocation to the aesthetic canons of the time.

    In conclusion, the accuracy for details and the precise recreation of the world’s reality in art shown in the pre-raphaelitic paintings signalize not only an artistic revolution but also a distancing of the new artistic generation from the principles and aesthetic conventions of the Royal Academy in vogue in the Victorian Age.

    Roe, Dinah. “The Pre-Raphaelites”. British Library. victorians/articles/the-pre-raphaelites. Accessed 22.11.2016.
    Casteras, Susan P. “Pre-Raphaelite Challenges to Victorian Canons of Beauty”. The Huntington
    Library quarterly: studies in English and American history and culture 1992, pp.13-35.

  11. What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters concerning art?
    The term Pre- Raphaelites is the one which encompasses a Brotherhood of multifaceted English artists (including painters, writers, especially poets, and critics) founded in September 1848 by three main authors, as they were Gabriel Dante Rossetti (1828-1882), William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) and John Everett Millais (1829-1896).The aim of this Brotherhood was the promulgation of their new conception of art and literature throughout the distribution of The Germ, a periodical published in 1850. The main issue regarding the Pre- Raphaelites is their determination to reform contemporary art and ideals of beauty established during the Victorian Period (1837-1901). It is important to depict briefly the standards and decorum in art during Victorian times in order to understand the revolutionary character that distinguished the Pre-Raphaelites style.
    During the reign of Queen Victoria the major cultural institution was the Royal Academy of Arts, founded in London (1768). The second half of the 19th Century was one of the most prosperous periods for the British Empire; the consolidation of industry and economic developments as well as the colonial establishments were carried on at that time, hence was this brilliant moment reflected in art and literature. In art, exotic landscapes were represented with vivid and bright colors. The target was the portrait of a close observation of nature and human spheres and the selected scenario was where social high-class popular events were performed, restricting the art representations to the refinement and aesthetics of this specific social class. Therefore, this social class was represented by the concept of “dainty” and its canon of beauty, focus on the representation of pale skins, blond hairs, regular oval faces and small figures for the representation of extremities, as it would be seen in Punch’s cartoon “The Pound and the Shilling”, especially with female figures. Nevertheless, the English countryside was also the scenario for artistic works because it was the point of view from the common population in England and it was the perfect place to represent the emotional and spiritual characteristics of high class.
    The three initial Pre-Raphaelites were joined later on by Dante’s brother William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), James Collinson (1825-1881), Frederic George Stephens (1828-1907) and Thomas Woolner (1825-1892). This group of 7 authors worked out with many media, even politics and religion, and carried out one of the major contributions to history of modern art. Their purposes were throwing away the ideals of restrictive and conventional contemporary art through the imitation of classic figures as the artist Raphael, considered by the PRB as the unique figure who reached the highest point of perfection.
    Concerning art, the Pre-Raphaelites developed a new conception of beauty (also called by critics of “non- beauty”). They used shocking visual effects and striking images in order to represent nature in a more realistic and perfect way, especially in human figures, flouting in that way Victorian standards. On that account, they used innovative techniques with white colors combined with transparent layers in order to achieve a shading contrastive effect. It is important to highlight their magnificent use of colorful backgrounds, with shining greens, lilac and violet.
    People during the Victorian era were terribly frightened by diseases; therefore nothing that manifests this obscurity could be considered art. This reinforced British attitudes towards social differences among classes and the idea of higher classes represented through ideal landscapes and perfect figures. Analyzing Millais’ “Chris in the House of his Parents” it can be seen how this Brotherhood was able to represent pseudo- sciences (as pathognomy, physiology, physiognomy) and also health disorder and deformity in their paintings to represent the suffering in human body. Thus, Victorian idyllic higher class was barred from the pictorial standard.
    Again the innovative character of the PRB was opposed to contemporary art. Examining female and male figures in Punch’s “The Pound and the Shilling” two ideas of beauty are distinguished: major beauty and minor beauty. The first is the one attributed to male figures presented as heroes and characterized by the idea of the sublime. On the other hand, female figures are painted small and sweetly. The author through a dainty beauty achieves the representation of their vulnerability.
    On the opposite side is the representation of Rossetti’s “Astarte Syriaca”. The author uses huge extremities to depict the figure of the lady, who is the focus of the picture. Furthermore, she is presented as an Amazonian beauty, which is also connected with the idea of the sublime, even though she is a woman.
    As a conclusion, this brotherhood was characterized by their disagreement with industrial life, culture and also with contemporary art. Consequently, their aim was not only to carry out an artistic revolution through science, literature, politics and religion, but also to create a new conception of pictorial aesthetics challenging Victorian standards.

  12. What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite painters concerning art?

    The British artist’s group which is today known as the “Pre-Raphaelites” was founded in 1848 and consisted in its core of William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Later, further artists and poets joined in (e.g. William Michael Rossetti) to share and develop further their innovative ideas of beauty which challenged the mainstream approach of the early Victorian age when it comes to depicting reality in high art. With their different presentation of people and nature, they implied new beauty standards and therefore, their painting style was strongly criticised and considered as offensive, ugly and unworthy by the Royal Academy of Art.

    The Victorian ideals of beauty were strongly connected to the convictions that England and its population were in some kind superior regarding other countries and cultures. Hence, there was a certain arrogance and a longing to eliminate the irregularities of natural formed bodies in order to heighten dignity. The predominant Victorian assumption was that outer beauty and perfection reflects inner feelings, attitudes and characteristics or in other words – “the most beautiful soul must have the most beautiful body” which means that the harmony of physical traits is indispensable to the presentation of a good character. Disciplines such as physiognomy and phrenology were consequently put into practice. Being pretty even meant that one had the joy to belong to a higher social class and therefore not having to work hard all day and get dirty. In general, there was a great fear of getting in touch with spreading diseases and the concepts of dirt and physical diseases as well as mental disorders were tightly associated. To be more precise, special physical characteristics were dedicated to men representing major beauty and women representing minor beauty. While men should be strong, brave and heroic, women were always depicted as dainty, vulnerable and innocent. This corresponds to the following male features of broad shoulders, beards and big limbs whereas female beauty standards consisted of black hair, oval faces, bright and pure skin, big eyes and especially small hands and feet. Finally, static poses and the connection to god and heaven completed the features of a perfect Victorian painting.

    The Pre-Raphaelites completely reversed these ideas of beauty. Firstly, their works were full of overwhelming detailed body features. One could see translucent veins, naked feet, dirty skin, deep facial furrows and gaunt bodies. The predominant association of fine art, physical perfection and high social status was fully rejected. In their paintings, Millais and his birds of a feather realised the advanced viewpoint that deformities and dirt are a part of nature and therefore not discraceful or ugly. Besides, they went even further by implying that an airbrushed physical appearance as it was presented by Victorian artists has nothing to do with inner values and attitudes. In addition, Rossetti’s works show perfectly how the Pre-Raphaelites set new gender types. He himself was known for presenting broad-shouldered women with big feet and hands, curly red hair and luscious lips which is exactly the opposite of daintiness. Millais on the other hand received a lot of criticism for depicting the Holy Family as rather dirty wood carpenters in simple clothing with “Christ in the House of his Parents” (1849). In the end, bright colours, dynamic and relaxed poses and the overall love of detail when painting nature and human outer features define the new approach of the Pre-Raphaelites.

    To sum it up, the Pre-Raphaelites set the starting point for a new comprehension and perception of beauty; an idea which is no longer directly linked to social status or inner values. Human beings are a part of nature and nature is perfect in itself. Their unadulterated way of presenting reality dispersed former concepts of gender types and of what is worthy to be shown in high art. Thanks to their courage, a more widened, revolutionary appreciation of art highly influenced the cultural scene in England and a certain wind of change blew away old patterns of thought.

  13. 4. How is the idea of Pre-Raphaelitism reflected in the poetry of D.G. Rossetti?

    Dante Gabriel Rossetti started out as a translator of 12th and 13th century Italian poetry. This work should be the stepping stone to his revolutionary new take on his own poems and on British Art in general. Rossetti was more focused on mediating the melody of early Italian poems than on translating the words. A translated poem rather needed to convey the same emotional appeal. Rossetti achieved this by his diligent study of Italian rhyme patterns on which he based his creation of a novel rhyme scheme in the English language.
    What at first might seem paradoxical; The Pre-Raphaelites detested the imitation of the Renaissance painters and all the Raphael successors, whose style was taught at the Royal Academy, but their most important founding member created pastiches of early Italian poetry by recreating its melody in English and drawing on the themes of Medieval narratives. The Pre-Raphaelites demanded creative integrity meaning genuine and original ideas, an individual way of thinking and creating art. Even though Rossetti took his inspiration and approach from the Italian artists he developed it further and experimented with omission and half rhymes; his was a new style in the English tradition.
    The young Rossetti was especially taking with the great poet Dante who worked as a role model for him to an extend that Rossetti started modelling his life after Dante’s. The late poet as well had a group of friends about him who wanted to initiate a poetic revolution. Rossetti had a vision for a new ideal as well and with his like-minded friends William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais he started a circle about him, initially of fine artists, who were also interested in literature.
    The Pre-Raphaelites wanted to follow the pursuit of their day: the advancement in science. With many new accomplishments by scientist that helped to explain and understand the world finding out and depicting truth was the ultimate goal for these artists. Truth was essentially the representation of life as it is. Rossetti’s engagement and experimentation with rhythm was one way to adopt scientific method in the arts to approach reality. The most essential practice was close observation especially of nature. This observational detail is a hallmark of Pre-Raphaelitism as it would permit an accurate depiction of nature in paintings but also help to produce visuality in literature. An example of pictorial language in Rossetti is this line from his poem “Nuptial Sleep”:
    “Of married flowers to either side outspread
    From the knit stem; yet still their mouths, burnt red“

    One other feature of Rossetti’s art this excerpt shows are his explicit views on love, especially physical love, and his vision in regard to the ideal woman. In contrast to Victorian beauty ideals of angelic daintiness, the Pre-Raphaelite idea was that of an antique muse; an Amazonian beauty; a tall, strong, awesome and sublime female. As these features need to be visually striking to create an effect with the reader Rossetti’s poetry worked with detailed description of imagery by using comparisons and symbolism. His allusions to sex were an outrage for the moral Victorian society. The artist believed in humans’ need of earthly experience to come close to truth, meaning that what I perceive is the only thing I can know or that only my human experience makes me understand. Rossetti tried to get to a transcendental stage, that is why heaven is often a topic in his poems, but thought this might not be possible. This phenomenological viewpoint was very Victorian, helped by the growing popularity of science.
    In conclusion, it seems that Rossetti, trying to go against stylistic conventions as he was, was still a man of his time, always keeping social problems in mind and addressing them in a provocative way. It is interesting that he chose to do so by using medieval themes which would remove the up-to date topics he addressed into an implicit distance.

  14. Study Question 1: What was the innovative idea of the Pre-Raphaelite Painters concerning art?

    The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (founded in 1848 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John
    Everet Millais), a circle of young visual artists and poets, set out to create art which contested the typical
    Victorian ideals of beauty, actively depicting the beauty of nature in everyday contexts as opposed to aesthetic
    beauty and daintiness. The Pre-Raphaelites strongly opposed an academic understanding of art in the sense of
    the norms of high culture proposed by the Royal Academy. The Pre-Raphaelite understanding of art, however,
    was based on the ideals prevalent before the time of Raphael, hence the name. PRB paintings, which until 1850
    were only signed with these initials (Bills 54), typically convey a large degree of vitality, e.g. through the use of
    vivid colours and dynamic lightning.
    A characteristic and by contemporaries also harshly criticised feature of PRB painting is their demonstration of
    intimacy as well as moving the beautiful and artistic away from courteous and religious concepts. Contrary to
    the common opinion of the time, the Pre-Raphaelites found beauty in commonplace scenes and didn’t refrain
    from setting their art in everyday contexts. An example which unites the depiction of intimacy with aesthetic
    norms which were unusual for the Mid-Victorian Period (Bills 59) is The Hireling Shepherd by William Holman
    Hunt painted in 1851.
    Another remarkable feature of Pre-Raphaelite painting as well as poetry lies in its perspective on women:
    While traditional Victorian art of the time saw women as “the angel in the house” (Coventry Patmore), the Pre-
    Raphaelite understanding of femininity empowers women by depicting them in an expressive manner. Their
    naturally strong and almost masculine features do not narrow their desirability and the voluptuousness
    depicted in many works. Quite on the contrary, the Pre-Raphaelite woman, depicted in a rather strong selfdetermined
    manner, seems to be quite the opposite of the Mannerist ideal of the time. For members of the
    Victorian aesthetic tradition which stipulated dainty little extremities and child-like features in women pointing
    to innocence, the Pre-Raphaelite idea of women appeared to be quite bizarre, grotesque and disfigured.
    Furthermore, the Pre-Raphaelite understanding of femininity is closely connected to the Pre-Raphaelite
    perception of art: First of all, the Pre-Raphaelites did not, as opposed to the traditional artists of the time,
    understand art as an end in itself in the sense of l’art pour l’art. However, for them art often has a critical
    function as can be seen in the poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti for example. Many of his works criticise the
    Mannerist understanding of beauty and broach the issue of the shift of artistic ideals at the time. Apart from
    the critical aspect, the Pre-Raphaelites also strived for art to be realist, i.e. the artworks of the time in both
    poetry and painting contained a high degree of detail which is referred to as “photographic realism”. On the
    other hand, however, Pre-Raphaelite art also conveys transcendental ideas, criticising traditional religious
    beliefs of the time. It is this fusion of realism and transcendentalism which is once again visible in the poetry of
    Dante Gabriel Rossetti and which is truly remarkable of Pre-Raphaelite art.
    Contesting both artistic as well as societal norms of the time, the Pre-Raphaelites raised a lot of criticism with
    contemporary artists as well as with society in general. Refusing to depict an idealised version of reality, the
    Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood held a mirror up to Victorian society and therefore also received a lot of criticism.
    Nevertheless, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood also found strong support in the friendship with John Ruskin, a
    leading art critic of the Victorian era, or in the acquaintance with Charles Dickens (the relation to whom see 2.)
    As a conclusion, the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty reversed aesthetic norms of the time and moved the focus
    from aestheticism to realism, depicting the status quo of Victorian society. Therefore, the Pre-Raphaelite
    Brotherhood cannot only be considered a benchmark in Victorian art, but also in social critique of the time.
    Hence the importance of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood until today, as it had infinite impact on shifting the
    traditional understanding of beauty.
    (For a 21st century example of Pre-Raphaelitism:

      1. I am so sorry about all the hazzle about posting my comment, but it has finally made it. I am also including my sources (finally), I had to cut them off because apparently, wordpress hates me. Please also excuse the messed-up formatting, I don’t know how that happened.

        – Bills, Mark. Dickens And The Artists. New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2012.
        – Casteras, Susan P. “Pre-Raphaelite Challenges To Victorian Canons Of Beauty”. Huntington Library Quarterly, vol 55, no. 1, 1992, pp. 13-35. Johns Hopkins University Press.

        The link to the blog I posted is not only about Fanny Eaton, but I particularly admire her and wanted to bring her into the discussion for various reasons. While talking about the representation of beauty in Pre-Raphaelite Art, we haven’t really broached the topic of models in Pre-Raphaelitism and their role in Victorian society. Moreover, I was looking for a modern representation of Pre-Raphaelitism and stumbled upon that tumblr. I wanted to show how Pre-Raphaelitism is still relevant and present in the 21st century, especially in pop culture. I find it interesting how such a traditional or even “old-fashioned” topic has invaded social media.
        As far as Fanny Eaton is concerned, she has made it into the blogosphere!

        Here’s a short collection of 21st century representations of her:
        – This blog is worth reading, especially the comment section of this article where someone claims Fanny Eaton to be his great-grandmother. If we think about the ways social media actually enables new perspectives on research of the biography of this woman, that would make for interesting discussion.
        – Again, the comment section is worth it, there a whole art / history discourse is established in public. I think this is also interesting from the point of view of discourse / political theory, as the discussion going on on a blog is probably the most democratic form of talking about art that currently exists. It’s also interesting to see how with this democratisation of the art discourse, unknown or socially marginalised artists have gained popularity / are newly discovered. The public discourse established in the two blogs above even led to people newly publishing about Fanny Eaton in academia:

  15. Ideas for response on study question 4:

 “Goblin Market” has been read as lesbian love story, fantasy, story of redemption and criticism of capitalism. What is your personal reader’s response to this unusual text?

    Goblin Market is about two sisters, who go to the market to fetch water every evening. They see the Goblins trying to sell deliciously, good-looking fruits every time they go there. Lizzie remembers one of her friends buying a fruit and afterwards pining away to death because she could not get any more but Laura buys one anyway. She tells Lizzie that she will just buy some more the next day for both of them. But when she realizes that she cannot see the Goblins anymore she slowly starts to fade away. Trying to save Laura, Lizzie goes to buy fruits for her sister. When she resists on buying a fruit for herself the Goblins start to beat her and try to force the juice of the fruits into her mouth by greasing it all over her face. As soon as the Goblins get tired of torturing her, Lizzie runs home to ask Laura to kiss the juice on her face. Laura first turns into a deathlike state, but wakes up the next morning, freshly restored.

    My first thought on „Goblin Market“ was that it reads like a tale. It has some kind of suspension, it has a clear distance of civilization and the setting is described very fairy tale like with lots of adjectives. It is interesting to read and it clearly has a story line. I thought of it more as a story than a poem which certainly also comes down to the narration style, the irregular rhyme scheme and loose iambic tetrameters. The Goblins are the evil, Lizzie is the hero, Laura the fool or the one causing problems and the fruits are the forbidden, the taboo and also somehow the exciting.

    When the fruit became known as the forbidden thing in the poem, I immediately thought of the story of Adam and Eve. And the more I thought about it, the more could I see a relation between those two stories. The setting described just like paradise, the Goblins tempting Laura and Lizzie just like the Snake convincing Adam and Eve, the fruits as the temptation to sin and the wide variety of temptations humans face during their lifetimes, Lizzie as the Christ figure who has to suffer because of Lauras sins and Laura as Eve who eats the forbidden fruit.

    I have to admit that I could not come up with the idea of a lesbian love story or a criticism of capitalism myself, but when discussing those views in our course it made sense as well. What I really liked is the idea of Goblin Market as a criticism of capitalism. It sounds more modern to me and puts the poem in another age just by interpreting it in another way. Laura as the consumer who practically sells her body by paying with her hair, the one who falls for the merchants and the consumer goods that are tempting and then Lizzie as a Marxist, a wise buyer.

    The one I can relate to the least is to interpret it as a lesbian love story. I would rather see the eco-feminist interpretation than a love story between Laura and Lizzie. For me, it is more about sisterly love than the crazy desiring love one feels while being in love.

    I wonder if Rosetti thought about the many ways to interpret it or if she just had one interpretation in mind. But to me, there is no „right“ way to interpret it. It is a great poem that has a „taly“ touch and can be interpreted in many ways, throughout many centuries. To me, this is the hardest thing about art -to write or paint that way, that it speaks to everyone, that everyone can get something out of it and that everyone can feel something while reading or looking at it. I personally find it fascinating that Rosetti could write a poem in 1862 which is applicable to 21st century views and movements. Everybody will find his own interpretation and in my opinion, how you interpret this poem says more about yourself than about the poem.


    4. “Goblin Market” has been read as lesbian love story, fantasy, story of redemption and criticism of capitalism. What is your personal reader’s response to this unusual text?

    The “Goblin Market” is a narrative poem written by Christina Rossetti in 1859 and published in 1862 in Goblin Market and Other Poems. This poem has attracted many criticisms due to its different interpretations. Although, according to Rossetti, this poem was intended to be a fairy tale addressed to children, critics have also seen it as an eco-feminist utopia, as a critique of capitalism and as a religious manifesto.

    The “Goblin Market” tells the story of two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who encounter goblin merchants who try to tempt them in order to buy their forbidden fruit. Whereas Lizzie is able to resist their temptation, Laura is not and she finally exchanges a golden lock of her hair for their fruit. She begins to deteriorate and Lizzie, worried about her sister, tries to buy some of the goblins’ fruit with a silver penny, since she thinks they would serve as an antidote for her sister. However, they do not accept it and, violently, force Lizzie to eat their fruit. After this event, Lizzie goes back home and Laura kisses her sister, who was covered with the forbidden fruit, and is finally restored.

    As mentioned before, this poem has many interpretations. However, although there are some events that remind me of religious passages such as Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, I interpret this poem as a cautionary tale due to, among other things, the morals and values it teaches.

    The first thing that calls my attention and makes me think of a fairy tale is the setting. Since the very beginning, the story in the poem takes place “In summer weather” (line 16). Additionally, the description made in the first stanza makes me think of a sunny and colourful atmosphere due to all the kind of fruits presented (“Apples and quinces, /Lemons and oranges, /Plump unpeck’d cherries, /Melons and raspberries” lines 5-8). Furthermore, I think that how the night is presented in this poem is also important to mention. Throughout the poem, the night is presented as dangerous, as Lizzie states in lines 144-145: “Dear, you should not stay so late, /Twilight is not good for maidens;”. The image of the night as full of dangers is presented in most of stories. However, this fact is even more marked in fairy tales. The night is seen as mysterious and is usually when all the bad events take place. In fact, Lizzie tells her sister the story of Jeanie in order to make her aware of this issue: “Do you not remember Jeanie, /How she met them in the moonlight,” lines 147-148.

    Another important feature in fairy tales is the role that characters play. In most of them, there are always a hero or a saviour, the one who has to be saved, and the villain. In this poem, these three roles are quite clear. On the one hand, Lizzie represents the hero, since she exposes her to danger in order to obtain the antidote to restore her sister. She is who save Laura from death. And therefore, Laura becomes the rescued character. On the other hand, in this poem (but also in most fairy tales), the Goblins play the role of the villain. They are presented as evil and mischievous. In this case, throughout the whole poem, they try to tempt the sisters to buy their forbidden fruit. They try to trick them in order to achieve their purpose: to poison them.

    Finally, it is important to mention the morals and values presented in this poem. Morals and values are a common feature in fairy tales. Behind these stories, there is always something that they try to teach and, especially, if they are addressed to children. In this case, I think that the most remarkable moral and value in this poem is the power of love. In this case, the sisters’ love. However, there are also other themes treated throughout the “Goblin Market”, such us “temptation” and “distrust towards strangers”. In fact, these are themes that are also dealt with in other fairy tales such as, regarding the latter, in “Little Red Riding Hood”.

    In conclusion, the “Goblin Market” is a poem that can lead to many interpretations and its elements can acquire different meanings depending on the point of view someone chooses. While for some this poem can allude to religious passages, for others it can be a criticism to capitalism, or simply, a cautionary tale, as I interpreted it and first attempt of Christina Rossetti. I do not think there is a right or wrong interpretation of this poem, although the intention of Christina Rossetti was this poem to be a cautionary tale.

    2) We normally associate the narrative mode with the form of the novel, romance or epic. But it seems to be a transmedial mode. How could you argue for poems, or even pictures, to be narrative?

    “Narrative”, derived from Latin ‘narrare’, in its broadest sense refers to the transmission of an event or a sequence of events, i.e. a story or a tale. Poetry, already from its etymology from Ancient Greek ποιέω ‎(poiéō, ‘make, do, create’) refers to the construction of something, e.g. the construction of a story. This can certainly be applied to classical epic poems in Greek and Latin traditions as well as to poetry in modern times. As far as classical poetry is concerned, the Iliad and the Odyssey along with ‘De bello gallico’ or ‘De rerum natura’ are only the most well-known of an established epic-poetic tradition. The establishment of the novel around 1500 led to a decline in narrative poetry for writers willing to depict lengthy storylines or sequences of events would opt for writing prose from now on. (I.e. only as far as the English tradition is concerned, the question of what exactly was the first English novel is highly contested in itself).

    However, the narrative poem was not eradicated completely. Seeing that the first work considered English literature, Beowulf, is by some scholars considered a narrative poem itself, it becomes clear that there is definitely an English epic-poetic tradition that continues after 1500. From Shakespeare’s ‘Venus and Adonis’ in the late 16th century via John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ in the middle of the 17th century and Robert Southey’s ‘Joan of Arc’ in the late 1800s, narrative poetry continues to live on to the Victorian Age and even on to present-day (cf. Les Murray’s Freddy Neptune).

    As far as Pre-Raphaelite narrative poetry is concerned, William Morris, Thomas Woolner, as well as of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti are amongst the most widely-known Pre-Raphaelite poets concerned with narrative poetry.
    ‘The Defence of Guenevere’ by William Morris serves as a suitable model to exemplify core characteristics of Pre-Raphaelite poetry. With more than 2500 words, The Defence of Guenevere’s length is comparable to modern short stories. Already the internal structure of the poem mainly in 3-line stanzas suggests the narration of a sequence of events one after the other. Regarding the theme of this poem, the recollection of past events in Guenevere’s life convey a large degree of narrativity. Furthermore, the extended use of the past-tense (line 2 “She threw her wet hair backward”, line 8 “She walked away from Gauwaine”, line 52 “She said that Gauwaine lied”) is another indicator for the narrative nature of this poem. Similarly, Christina Rossetti’s ‘Monna Innominata’, a sonnet of sonnets is clearly to be situated in a narrative tradition. As indicated above, the terms “poetry” and “narrative” in my opinion are not exclusive but rather complementary, allowing for various hybrid genres to be situated in the interstices between the two extreme ends of a continuum.

    Turning towards painting, the issue of narrativity is slightly more complex. As to argue for painting and consequently photography to be narrative, another dimension has to be added to the definition of “narrative”, viz. it being subjective and recounting a sequence of events from a certain point of view. A narrative is never objective, but always biased, based on the personal perspective of the narrator. Guenevere’s memories are based on the point of view of the narrator just as taking a photograph or painting a picture is based on the perspective the artist chooses to apply. However, photography and painting, as well as poetry, go beyond simply reproducing a certain “fact” or “truth” as they create not only a realistic representation of a certain event / sequence of events, but display this event in a certain mode as well as via a certain medium. It is also the choice of the medium that sets art apart from science, and within art creates genre boundaries, which are at closer observation not boundaries, but rather zones of transition. The poet chooses to use iambic pentameter and write with purple ink on silk while the painter decides to apply a set of watercolours on canvas and the photographer puts on his macro lens.

    As a conclusion, both poetry as well as visual arts such as painting or even photography allude to the depiction of an event or a sequence of events which is subjective and reflects the intention of the author. I would personally argue even for photography to be narrative, as photographs at least implicitly allude to the circumstances surrounding the scene the photographer has chosen and therefore create a narrative in the viewer’s mind.

    1. very good! If you are interested in this aspect, I suggest Mieke Bal’s work on narrativity. In her book called “Reading Rembrandt”, she shows how paintings and, sometimes, even architecture can be read as narrative. But there has also been staunch criticism of this broad view on narration.
      I think you locate the beginning of the English novel to early with 1500. While we have longer prose fiction from there, they are not really anything like modern novels. Canonically, the novel enters center stage in the early 18th century, with the work of, f.e., Daniel Defoe.

  18. Why was the discourse on the “Fallen Woman” so topical in the Victorian Era? What was the Pre-Raphaelite stance on the topic, in comparison with the status quo?

    The Victorian era was named after Queen Victoria, who was the monarch in England at this point of time. This period lasted from 1837 until her death in 1901. It was strange that this era was named after the Queen, as women had very few rights and privileges during this period of time. Life was really difficult for women in the Victorian era. The main goal the woman was thought to be that she should grow up and get married. So therefore everybody believed that women had to fit in the role of mothers and wives. A woman should be “the Angel of the House”, fulfilling this role by looking beautiful, caring for the children and doing nice things like playing the piano.
    The term Fallen woman was quite typical for the Victorian era. It described women who became unrespectable and had lost their moral identity by having had sex outside of marriage. Hence, this meant women who had any sexual intercourse before marriage or women who betrayed their husbands lost their social status. They were thrown out of the house and were confronted with the hard life on the street. Since women were not allowed to go to school, they had no education, which would have allowed them to work and effort a life. Moreover the economic misery and low employment rates led the women into prostitution. Prostitution was identified as the ‘Great Social Evil’ in Victorian society and women as prostitutes were perceived with both revulsion and pity. Consequently, many women did not see a future. Oftentimes they considered suicide, because they were desperate and could not see any other chance to get out of their miserable situation.
    This slightly changed with the legalization of prostitution as a profession by passing the Contagious Diseases Act of 1864, 1866 and 1869. It allowed women to work as prostitutes and helped these women to take a different role in this discourse. They were now seen as victims. Many churches started to provide facilities for such women to give them a home. The focus now was not anymore just on the woman but also on the question why they are in this miserable situation. Of course this topic got also prevalent for the art of the Pre-Raphaelites brotherhood as we can see in many pictures which all tell us something about the lives of unrespectable women. But as in many of their pictures they are telling stories about these women from another perspective. For instance Holman Hunt, in his painting the Awakening Conscience, already center-stages the prostitute and looks at the Psychology of her situation. The painting shows a mistress sitting on the lap of her lover. Thus she refers to the picture of a fallen woman, but at a moment of redemption. While he is playing a song, she is reminded of her innocent past and her now predetermined future that is waiting for her. Because of a mirror in the room, one can see that she is looking out of the window. She wants to flee this situation. Another good example is the painting of Brown called Take your son sir. This painting appeals to the fallen woman and their children, who were not accepted from their fathers and were faced with a life without any perspectives. This arises the question of who really is responsible for these children. It could also be seen as a criticism on men, who did not care about their children. Not at least it is the painting Found of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which drew another light onto the discourse. The painting shows a woman leaning against a wall and a man stopping his wagon with a calf on it. He wants to help her up, but she just turns away from him. It looks like she is ashamed and whacked. Rossetti tries to depict a fallen woman’s problems and arises the question, if this disdainfulness is just and reasonable.
    The Pre-Raphaelites achieved a new way of thinking in the discourse of the fallen woman. The situation of these women was now seen as difficult and problematic. They opened up the way for arising questions of responsibility and the role of women and their rights in society.

    1. Ideas on study question one: Why was the discourse on the “Fallen Woman” so topical in the Victorian Era? What was the Pre-Raphaelite stance on the topic, in comparison with the status quo?

      The Victorian Era was dominated by the society’s strong belief in virtue which was defined by Christian values and moral. As a patriarchal society especially women were scrutinised and were expected to fulfil their role as dutiful, faithful and virtuous daughters or wives. The Victorians had very firm beliefs on how a woman should be and behave. The Victorian ideal was the so-called “Angel in the house” which was a dainty, pure and beautiful wife that obeyed her husband.

      The concept of sexual innocence was glorified and if a woman wanted to be respected she was only to have intercourse within marriage. A “Fallen Woman” was used to describe a woman who had decided to live in sin by either losing her chastity while being unmarried or by having an extramarital affair. Even a woman who was a victim of rape was considered a “Fallen Woman”. When a woman made the decision to be unfaithful to her husband, it was granted that she had ruined her life but also the life of her husband and her children’s life. A “Fallen Woman” could also not expect help and had to accept her destiny and some women committed suicide because they had no other option.
      However, the term also has another rather specific meaning. There were not many employment options for women at the time and therefore many poor women had practically no other choice than prostituting themselves. Prostitution was legalised however, the police had the right to arrest prostitutes and examine them in order to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Nevertheless, the Victorian society condemned such work publically.
      The “Fallen Woman” was an incredibly popular theme in Victorian literature and art. Many contemporary artists and writers reflected the common notion in the Victorian Era with no sympathy.
      In a Royal Academy exhibition the artist Richard Redgrave displayed his painting “The Outcast” in 1851 which depicts a young woman with her child ostracised by her father. Additionally, the painter George Frederic Watts demonstrates a fallen woman’s faith in his painting “Found Drowned”. A woman lies lifeless under a bridge because of lacking other options than suicide after she has cheated on her husband. Paintings like these served as a warning to women what might happen if they choose to have an affair.

      Nevertheless, the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood also explored the theme but they did not simplify these situations in which these women were like many contemporaries. They recognised the unfair double standards of the Victorian society and how such women were unjustly treated.
      Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem about the prostitute Jenny offered a completely innovative outlook into the life of a prostitute. The poem was not used in a dehumanising way or exploited to portray a prostitute as the great evil. The poem was rather used to express sympathy for the work of a prostitute. The poem, which is written from the point of view of a customer, depicts the state of Victorian prostitution and especially expresses what kind of harsh criticism such women were exposed to and what they had to face in a judgemental Victorian society. Rossetti also depicted the “Fallen Woman” in a painting of his: “Found” shows a man that recognises his former lover who is now a prostitute.

      Interestingly, William Holman Hunt also showed a different narrative from the popular “Fallen Woman” subject. In his painting “The Awakening Conscience” Hunt depicted a fallen woman but in a rather unusual way. The woman, who had just been sitting on her lover’s lap, decides to stand up and her facial expression is filled with hope. It could be interpreted that Hunt wanted to show that a woman who is a “Fallen Woman” has the chance of forgiveness and should not be punished for her actions by society. Her lover could be seen as the temptation that she has to detach herself from in order to move forward. The painting showed the great injustice of women in these situations and demonstrated perfectly how the Victorian society was biased by blaming only women for an affair.
      Furthermore, Ford Madox Brown’s painting “Take your son, sir!” could also be interpreted as a social criticism: An abandoned woman who demands the father of her child to show responsibility, which should be his duty.

      However, at the end of the 19th century many literary works emerged with “Fallen Women” as protagonists that questioned or challenged sexual morals in Victorian England. The common notion about a “Fallen Woman” changed to which the Pre-Raphaelites undoubtedly contributed.

  19. OWN QUESTION: In which way does Rossetti in her Introuction to “Monna Innominata” critique the narrative perspective of Petrarch and Dante? How does she direct her critique to the writing tradition of her own time?

    As Christina Rossettis “Monna Innominata” implies, the poem’s primary concern centers on an “unknown lady”. But unlike most other poems produced until the publication of this work, the title does not refer solely to the object that is being described, but rather gives away the narrator, or speaker of the poem. With that revolutionary change in perspective, Rossetti actually intends to get her audience acquainted to the lady speaker, ultimately trying to convert her into a ‘known lady’, an individual woman, herself driven by passions and love. In her preface to the poem, Rossetti addresses the initial cause that gave way to the gender-specific inversion of the speaker: She talks about the love-interests of Petarch and Dante, two of the most popular artists of the (early) Renaissance.
    Rossetti calls these emblems of unrequited love, namely Beatrice and Laura, “heroines of world-wide fame” [1]. Petrarch and Dante wrote extensively about their courtly love to Beatrice and Laura. As their work reflects , both artists puzzled and thoroughly examined their desire to these women. At the end of the day, their passionate bonds broke or could not even tied – Beatrice and Laura died early in life, leaving their admirers in the desperate state of endless idealizing. Both women, according to Rosetti, along with many other female subjects in poems, “have alike paid the exceptional penalty of exceptional honour, and have come down to us resplendent with charms, but (at least, to my apprehension) scant of attractiveness.” [2] For Rossetti, true attractiveness arises in the connection between two people. Rather than examining objective and seemingly superficial norms of beauty being portrayed by an icon, Rossetti seeks to create or depict an attractive individual that only in her relationship with another subject becomes truly desirable [3] – which, one might argue, can even be herself. It seems that in Rossetti’s work the subjective conscious at the end produces beauty and, consequently, artistic value. This thought seems especially grounded in the belief that an artist can acquire great artistic skill through suffering (by means of an unrequited love).
    Therefore, Rossetti laments the absence of agency and subjective impact of both Beatrice and Laura within the works of Petrarch and Dante. Regardless of the restrictive and patriarchal view of a woman’s professional capabilities underlying a hegemonic Victorian viewpoint, Rossetti states how “one can imagine many a lady as sharing her lover’s poetic aptitude” [4] during the culturally-spirited and artistically-uplifting period of the Renaissance. She regrets how the artistic potential of these women will always be lost to the world, [5] by means of excluding women not only in regards to subjectiveness in narration but also from the literary field altogether.
    Relating back to the artistic tradition of Victorian times, Rossetti links her findings to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of the most celebrated woman writers of the nineteenth century:
    “Or had the Great Poetess of our own day and nation only been unhappy instead of happy, her circumstances would have invited her to bequeath us, in lieu of the ‘Portuguese Sonnets,’ an inimitable ‘donna innominata’ drawn not from fancy but from feeling, and worthy to occupy a niche beside Beatrice and Laura.” [6]
    She here comes back to the importance of an artist to suffer (in love) in order to be excellent in what he or she does. Elizabeth Barrett Browning had reportedly lived a happy life with her husband, whom she adored very much. Rossetti concludes that, due to the lack of desperateness and suffering that arises out of an unrequited love or heavily unbalanced love affair, Barrett Browning was not able to evolve into an even greater poetess. She would then have developed true “feeling” rather than “fancy”, and would have been able to produce work equal to that of Dante and Petrarch.

    Works Cited:
    [1] Rossetti, Christina. “Monna Immoninata.” The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle. Cecil Y. Lang, editor. U of Chicago P, 1975. 144.
    [2] ibid.
    [3] In a way, Rossetti was reinforcing PRB ideas by rejecting a (classicist) idealized beauty standard.
    [4] Rossetti, Christina. “Monna Immoninata.” 144.
    [5] One might even be as daunting to argue that with this Rossetti in a way foregrounded a thought that would later be manifested in Virginia Woolf’s “Shakespeare’s Sister” concept.
    [6] Rossetti, Christina. “Monna Immoninata.” 144.

  20. 1. Why was the discourse on the “Fallen Woman” so topical in the Victorian Era? What was the Pre-Raphaelite stance on the topic, in comparison with the status quo?

    The concept of femininity in the Victorian era was profoundly bound to a set of ideals like delicacy, purity and fragility. Representing the perfect Victorian woman meant, in fact, to assume the role of the “Angel of the House”, who loved and obeyed her husband or father, who took care of her children and who would refrain from any sort of moral transgression. The idea of femininity was trapped into a net of social conventions which completely ignored the actual will of the woman focusing exclusively on her duties towards her husband and making a taboo of her thoughts, figure and sexuality. However, getting out of this net of social conventions was not really an option either: not embracing the stereotype of the Angel of the House meant, in most of the cases, being labeled with the one of the “Fallen Woman”, a woman who would lose her innocence by acting in a (for the time) promiscuous way by, for example, dishonoring her father or husband. This meant for her to leave the family and the house, to be forced on the street and to a life of shame, humiliation and misery.

    The figure of the Fallen Woman became of emblematic relevance in the Victorian society, especially in light of “the great social evil” (Rhianna Shaw, “The Great Social Evil: ’The Harlot’s House’ and Prostitutes in Victorian London”) of the time: prostitution. Considering the strict moral of the Victorian Age, one would not expect an amount of 2119 brothels and 6515 prostitutes reported in London alone by the Metropolitan Police Office of 1868 (Rhianna Shaw, “The Great Social Evil”). Prostitution was indeed a great social problem not only because it clearly conflicted with the ideals of the time, but also and mostly because of the dangerous implications of it, as for example the lack of hygiene or the spreading of sexual diseases.

    The miserable condition of many of the prostitutes in the London of the 19th century had indeed a great resonance in the artistic movement of the time, which would try to go beyond the idea of the Fallen Woman so as it was portrayed in the Victorian time to embrace the actual tragedy these women were living. “Like strange mechanical grotesques, /Making fantastic arabesques,/The shadows raced across the blind” writes Oscar Wild in “The Harlot’s House” underlining how the living conditions of the very much criticized (and at the same time very much visited) Fallen Women made them soulless shadows, who mechanically danced for their costumers.

    The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood represents one of the aesthetic movements of the time that proved a new great sensitivity towards the topic. “Jenny”, the female figure portrayed in the poem of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, becomes the emblematic figure of a new stance on the idea of the Fallen Woman. The lyric I of the poem expresses his feelings and thoughts about a prostitute he calls “Fair Jenny mine, the thoughtless queen / Of kisses which the blush between / Could hardly make much daintier;/ Whose eyes are as blue skies, whose hair / Is countless gold incomparable”. If on one side the erotic dimension of the poem is rather explicit, on the other side the author seems to associate the figure of Jenny to some of the ideals typically referred to the Angel of the House, as for example daintiness, creating a rather antithetical and, for the time, unacceptable comparison. The loving tone of the lyric I towards the feminine figure of the poem forces the reader to think of Jenny not anymore as a disrespectful woman but as a girl who needs compassion and mercy.

    Even if prostitutes represented probably the most fitting example of Fallen Women, this stereotype was not only used to describe them. In fact, “[d]uring the Victorian period [every] woman’s identity was indisputably intertwined with her sexual status” (Rosalind White, “The Role of the ‘Fallen Woman’ in Three Victorian Novels”). In this sense, the ideal of the Fallen Women did not merely refer to the immorality of working as a prostitute but, in a more extensive way, it referred to all the women who would commit moral transgressions, as for example dishonoring the father or being adulterous to the husband. In the Victorian culture there was no understanding or forgiveness for those who would choose the path of the Fallen Woman. Many paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite art gave a clear portray of the humiliating conditions women were forced into once discovered of their sins to actually criticize a deeper lack of any human compassion towards them. Following the principle of portraying the reality in the exact way it presented itself, the Pre-Raphaelites painters managed on one side to show to the public the actual reality of a Fallen Woman’s destiny and on the other side to awake the conscience and compassion of the observer for a woman who was considered for the standards of the time an immoral, indecent creature. Paintings like “Found Drowned” of Thomas Watts or “The Outcast” of Richard Redgrace forced the observer to actually consider the disastrous consequences, as for example suicide, that the shame and the miserable conditions a Fallen Woman was forced into might lead her to. This new compassion shown for the female figure results, in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites, into Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Found”. In this painting the compassion for the Fallen Woman turns into actual forgiveness for her sins: the painting, in fact, portrays an ashamed woman sitting on the ground, avoiding the look of a man who is trying to rescue her and to give her a second chance.

    In conclusion, it is possible to state that the Pre-Raphaelites proved to be an avant-garde also for the whole new position on the matter of the Fallen Woman, going beyond the superficiality of the time. The Pre-Raphaelites looked for the internal dramatic condition of the Fallen Woman, tried to understand the it to then show compassion for her destiny and forgiveness for choices she might have done out of desperation for her limited freedom.


    Shawn, Rhianna. “The Great Social Evil: “The Harlot’s House” and Prostitutes in Victorian London”. The Victorian Web. 18 May 2010. Last retrieved: 17.01.2017.

    White, Rosalind. “The Role of the ‘Fallen Woman’ in Three Victorian Novels: George Eliot’s Adam Bede, Wilkie Collins’s Armadale and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton”. The Victorian Web. 22 June 2016. Last retrieved: 17.01.2017.


    Why was the discourse on the “Fallen Woman” so topical in the Victorian Era? What was the Pre-Raphaelite stance on the topic, in comparison with the status quo?

    In 1851, Richard Redgrave presented a painting called “The Outcast” to the Royal Academy of Arts which depicts adultery as well as the resulting consequences in Victorian society. The head of the family abandons his daughter with her illegitimate child to her fate while the rest of the family is moaning and whining. The spirit of the Victorian Era is caught within that picture because being considered a “Fallen Woman” led to absolute shame and social expulsion.

    During a time when the industrial revolution and rural exodus revealed first negative aspects such as growing poverty in the cities or stench, dirt and noise, people wished for a “pure home” where one – especially men – could be safe from the roughness and chaos of the outside world. The wife was an important part of that puritanical idea which mostly relies on domesticity, innocence and religiousness. As a decent wife, women were expected to resemble an “Angel in the House” when facing the well-being of their husbands. The outside world was seen as sinful and disgraceful because there was also a lot of prostitution. To be more precise, a prostitute was a personalised symbol for the idea of the “Social Evil” which is strongly connected to dirt, diseases, sin and adultery. Therefore, women were thrown out of the house immediately when they betrayed their husbands and they also lost all of their dignity since their pureness and innocence were gone. Shame would cast a shadow over the whole family of the affected person and there would not be any forgiveness or compassion. So a woman who had committed adultery was despised by that male-dominated society in the same way than “professional” prostitutes were. In fact, it was often the case that abandoned wives really fought through their way by gaining money as prostitutes. Thus, it can be said that the dignity and social status of a woman in Victorian society were both completely dependent on her husband.

    In comparison, the artists’ group of the Pre-Raphaelites had not only different ideas of beauty but they were also longing for a new and more complex understanding of gender roles and values in Victorian society. Many poems and paintings showed the situation of unfaithful women in a different light. For the Pre-Raphaelites, dignity was no longer a quality connected to religion and faithfulness. In fact, they focused more on the individual female feelings and also on the question of who was to blame when it came to prostitution and adultery. With a painting called “Found”, Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicted a situation of adultery in a very ambiguous way. One can see that a prostitute is found by her potential former husband while loitering about in the city. She turns away her face and tilts towards a stone wall while her husband tries to pull her up. In the background, a calf is trapped within a net and it is waiting on a cart without being able to move. Regarding the religious symbolism, one can detect that a calf is a religious reference to innocence and purity. The woman in the foreground is just as trapped in her situation of being an abandoned wife as the calf is in its net. Therefore, the play with religious symbolism reveals that there are always two sides of a story and one could interpret that it is not only the woman who has to take responsibility for her actions. To be more precise, it is naive to only blame one side when facing a situation where several people are involved. Nevertheless, the criticism of Hunt is fairly subtle in this painting since one cannot know whether the woman is trapped within her own net of sins or within the impositions of married life.

    To draw a conclusion, it can be stated that the Pre-Raphaelite artists often hid critical messages in their works by playing with religious symbolism. The individual feelings and the complex emotional situation of unfaithful women should be depicted rather than just blaming them for being “sinful”. Finally, one could go so far as to claim that the Pre-Raphaelites were the first ones in Victorian England to turn towards gender equality and respect for the “minor beauty” by granting them their own sense of responsibility. This innovative, feminist-like thinking goes along with the female movement against the Contagious Diseases Acts from 1864 that banned public prostitution. Therefore, the Pre-Raphaelites may set a starting point for the development of women’s rights in Victorian England as well as for the still persistent modern debate about respect and esteem towards women in daily life in Western-shaped countries of the 21st century.

  22. 4. “Goblin Market” has been read as lesbian love story, fantasy, story of redemption and criticism of capitalism. What is your personal reader’s response to this unusual text?

    A poem, such as Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”, gives us the opportunity to enter new worlds, to immerse ourselves in other cultures and also allows us to travel back in time. The Goblin market was actually one of the most unusual poems I’ve read so far. Besides this, it was particularly interesting to look at the different approaches of interpretations of the poem. When reading the poem for the first time, I personally looked at it from a religious point of view. It did not even come to my mind, that there could be other ways of interpreting this piece of literature. Therefore, the aim of this essay is to explore the different ways of interpretation again.

    First of all, as already mentioned above, I want to look at the arguments for a religious interpretation of the poem. Therefore, the setting needs to be mentioned first. The whole atmosphere of the market and the goblins, who are crying “Come buy, Come buy” and this feeling of longing for something strictly forbidden, reminded me immediately of the setting of Adam and Eve in paradise. In addition, the goblins can then be read as Satan or in the biblical case, as the snake and the fruits are there to represent the temptation, the variety of sins. Lizzie would then represent Christ in the desert, and Laura on the other hand would represent Adam and Eve. However, during our discussion in class, I stopped reading it as a purely religiously motivated poem, but I still think the atmosphere of strong temptation stays, no matter from what perspective you are trying to interpret the poem.

    Furthermore, the interpretation of the poem from an Eco- Feminist perspective, was the hardest for me. Especially, the connections between the goblin market and the pastoral and their own world and then the interpretation of the goblins as the misleading seducers, I found it quite hard to look at it in that way. However, it got more clear when moving on to the fruits and interpreting them again as the natural or unnatural temptation as well as the poison and the antidote at the same time, depending on the situation, because as we learned in the poem the fruits served both purposes. I really liked then to look at Lizzie as the resistance, the savior, the “new woman”, whereas Laura was supposed to be the typical “fallen woman”, who in the end gets redemption and her purity is restored. Through this point of view, it seemed to me that the stresses on female bonding became more clear (their sisterhood, the ‘nest’, etc.).

    In contrast, we also explored the poem through our “fairy tale glasses”, so to speak. There are many parts in Goblin market that remind us of a fairy tale style. In spite of this, the market and the goblins themselves represents the evil, the danger, the rapists and as we all know goblins often play a large role in fairy tales. Therefore, the fruits are seen as the ‘taboo’ or the prohibition and we also know that a fruit that is poisonous and an antidote at the same time can only exist in a fairy tale, but not in real life. Additionally, Lizzie is seen as the good person, the savior and rescuer and on the opposite side, Lizzie as the bad one. I had not realized the coincidences until we discussed it in class, but it really opened my eyes also in the way on how people compared it to the “Red Riding Hood” and also to modern examples as “Twilight” and so on.

    Last but not least, in my group we discussed the poem as a critique of capitalism and I was surprised on how well it worked. As already the title implies, a ‘market’ is important in the poem and speaking of the market, the setting can be straightly compared to the (free) markets and also the repeated “Come buy, Come buy” phrase, creates this feeling of pressure, which we do know very well from our own time, where consumerism is a big issue. Correspondingly, the goblins represent the powerful merchants, as in the poem, and therefore show there abundance of products and also their profit oriented intentions. Moving on to the fruits, we drew the connection to colonization and the expanding Empire, where the fruits can be seen as trading product, the abundance of all the different consumer goods. In this context, the line “buying for the sake of buying” stayed in my mind and I think the poem beautifully shows the insanity of consumerism, where we are shown a “wise buyer”, represented by the character Lizzie, as well as a consumer that is unable to resist, Laura. Lizzie is the outcast who says ‘no’ and only exchanges with silver. Laura, on the other hand, sells her body (hair), which nicely come together with the aspect of the fallen woman again.

    Generally speaking, there is no overall conclusion on how to interpret this extraordinary poem, but as seen above, there are numerous interesting angles to look at it. Given the mentioned arguments, for me it’s a mixture of all these different aspects. I do believe that the “fallen woman” aspect is strongly represented in the poem and connected to that, the wish for redemption for those women. As we learned about Christina Rossetti’s life, it seems even more clear that she also wanted this redemption in reality, as she volunteered at houses for fallen women in order to help them. On the whole, I really enjoyed the session on this poem, because it was extremely interesting to get to discuss these completely different approaches.

  23. Thoughts on Study question 4: “Goblin Market” has been read as a love story, fantasy, a story of redemption and criticism of capitalism. What is your personal reader’s response to this unusual text?

    The long narrative poem “Goblin Market” could be considered as one of Christian Rossetti’s best-known poems in general. It first appeared in her volume of poetry “Goblin Market and Other Poems” in 1862. Additionally, it is one of the more Pre-Raphaelite poems by Christina Rossetti due to its character, its pictorial richness and sensuous details. Until today critics and scholars differ in their opinion on how the poem can be interpreted and what Christina Rossetti’s true intention might have been. Surprisingly, the four most prominent approaches to an interpretation of “Goblin Market” can all be linked to Christina Rossetti’s personal life or to life at that time in general. However, before taking a closer look at the different approaches a short summary is presented.

    The poem tells the story of two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, and a dubious group of goblin merchants. The goblin men cry for someone to by their magical fruits. Even though Lizzie warns Laura not to give in their temptation by reminding her what has happened to a friend of theirs, Laura ignores her. She eventually buys the enchanted fruit paying with a lock of her golden hair. Eating the fruit leads to addiction: The victim desires just another taste but the goblin men refuse that. Laura starts to waste away, thus Lizzie gets worried and decides to go down to the market. The goblin men try to tempt Lizzie just as they did with Laura bit Lizzie stands firm. She returns home, having resisted to taste the fruit but yet has its juice all over her. When Laura then kisses the juice off her sister’s cheek the curse is removed. Several years later the sisters are both married and have children themselves. They describe their experience with the goblin men and their fruit to their own children as a tale of sisterly love and sacrifice.
    In general, there many different approaches to the poem and its meaning. But just as I mentioned above there are four most prominent approaches for understanding the narrative poem: a cautionary tale, a critique of capitalism, an eco-feminist utopia or a religious manifest.

    William Michael Rossetti suggested himself that his sister did not mean anything profound by this fairytale. Certainly, there are some characteristics of the poem suggesting it might be a fairytale. Around this time fairytale telling had been quite a thing and it would not be surprising for Rossetti to have such an idea in mind while writing the poem. Yet, interpreting the “Goblin Market” as just a fairy tale, in my opinion, would not serve the poem right. Very striking, in this case, is how the image of the fallen woman is contrasted towards redemption for a woman’s sins. This might certainly be a topic of the narrative poem since Christian Rossetti herself worked in an aid house for fallen women. Thus, some critics suggest that the poem has a feminist or rather an ecofeminist approach. It deals with feminine sexuality and its relation to the Victorian social morals. Additionally, the narrative poem could also examine the capitalism of the Victorian time. Since connecting advertisement and trading was becoming more common at the markets, the general problem of empty promises was also rising.

    Nonetheless, my personal reader’s opinion sides more with the religious interpretation of “Goblin Market”. Obviously, the motif of the forbidden fruit also occurs in the bible story of Adam and Eve. In this case, the goblins would represent the snake and its desire to seduce Laura. Yet, there are some other associations and links which connect “Goblin Market” and some Bible stories or even persons. Lizzie’s willing sacrifice for her sister and her sister’s sins could be interpreted as Jesus who died for the sins of humankind. The goblins, in this case, would signify the Pharisees, their fruit might stand for the constant challenges and threats they oppose to Jesus and his followers. Laura depicts the struggling disciple who is not yet convinced that her sins would be forgiven. In my opinion, reading this narrative poem with some religious background knowledge, one could find many more references. The main aspect of temptation and redemption is a theme which often occurs in different stories of the Bible.

    As a conclusion, it should be said that yet the most impressive aspect about this poem is it being up-to-date by offering this many approaches and ways to interpret it. Every reader gets the chance to interpret “Goblin Market” in his own way. This could only be achieved by a fascinating style of the poem because it is not forcing the reader in a specific direction but leaves many different hints to many different topics. However, I still wonder if Christian Rossetti herself actually has thought about those many interpretations or if she really had something specific in mind.

  24. 3. How does “Monna Innominata” interact with the sonnet tradition of Petrarch and Dante?

    “Monna Innominata”, written by Christina Rossetti, was first published in 1881 and represents “a Sonnet of Sonnets”. Although it can be read as a response to her brother’s, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, work “The House of Life”, it most certainly reflects upon Dante Alighieri’s and Francesco Petrarch’s sonnet tradition. But how exactly does it interact with the sonnets of those two glorious Italian poets? As a matter of fact, by inserting in front of each poem two quotes by Dante and Petrarch, Rossetti answers them, giving the “Monna Innominata”, the unnamed woman praised and glorified as Beatrice and Laura in so many of their sonnets, a strong voice.

    Being a tradition during the Renaissance women are only considered worthy in relation to the value men give their beauty. Rossetti herself though thinks that the image of admirable, worshipped women in such poetry lacks personalization and individuality, thus being generalized. Those ladies are idealized and placed on “such pedestals that the women become almost devoid of individualized personalities, and instead their admirers continuously praise their generalized virtue and (exterior) beauty.”1 Rossetti criticizes the loss of actual and real people and modifies the traditional male perspective, which is pointed out in Dante’s and Petrarch’s quotes, by giving the woman the opportunity to speak up and to idealize her lover instead of being idealized. But how was Christina Rossetti influenced by those male poets, besides her strong wish to let a woman express herself in order to become more than an object?

    First and foremost the sonnet which was a fancied form during the Italian Renaissance and very popular in Dante’s “Vita Nova” and in Petrarch’s “Canzoniere”, is picked up by Rossetti, respecting the Petrarchan rhyme scheme in the octaves but varying the sestets, hence becoming more flexible. She, as well likes to pose a problem in the octave and to come up with a resolution in the sestet. Compare for example the fourth sonnet in which she wants to define her and her lover’s love. At the end she recognizes her longing for an equal love.

    In addition it is interesting to notice that both Dante Alighieri’s poetic piece and Francesco Petrarch’s collection of sonnets are mostly devoid of historical facts and descriptive details. The physical descriptions remain vague, therefore one might even doubt the existence of both ladies, but Christina Rossetti too, shows no interest in forging an actual, material identity. She only addresses her beloved with “you”, not giving away any sign of personal contact – just like Petrarch and Dante do since their cherished ladies are already married – making it nearly impossible to fathom the male figure any closer. The whole relation seems rather abstract, since they are always apart from each other, but for the second and third poem. Here she is definitely with her lover, she can sense and feel him, but nevertheless the second sonnet is only a lost memory, a mere shadow of the past, while the third poem is only about a dream, an unreal event. Thus a real contact is not palpable, although one must say that her love for him is authentic, true and sincere. They are no strangers, not like Petrarch and Laura, and complement each other.

    While Beatrice and Laura are married, both unreachable, and refuse Dante and Petrarch, feigning reluctance to return the poet’s love in order to preserve their reputation and honour, Rossetti’s love is unattained but not unrequited. He loves her with a “love outsoaring mine, (that) sang such a loftier song.” But because she cannot unite her passionate love and her religious belief this love becomes unreachable.

    The impossibility of achieving love represents an important point in courtly love, such as the image of love trapped between erotic desire and spiritual realization, which is also a topic in the poetry of Dante, Petrarch and Rossetti. Beatrice inspires the poet simultaneously to a desire aroused by her beauty and a longing of the soul for divine glory. The love experience is seen as a romantic love which is the first step to divine love that insists on a spiritual discovery. The poet in the “Canzoniere” too is captured between the physical desire as a passionate and fierce lover and the divine, mystic love. In the same way Christina Rossetti’s love for her beloved one cannot be united with her love of God: “I cannot love you if I love not Him,/ I cannot love Him if I love not you.” She struggles between the desire to be with her love and the wish to be a devout Christian, which is highlighted through several biblical references, such as the story of Esther and then followed by the lines “Thinking of you, and all that was, and all/That might have been and now can never be”.

    At the end, just like Francesco Petrarch who believes in Eros and Thanatos and thinks that the awakening of love results inevitably in mortality and death, Rossetti lingers after death in order to free her from suffering: “If thus to sleep is sweeter than to wake,/To die were surely sweeter than to live.” She sacrifices her earthly relationship hoping that they will be together in heaven, because love and faith are only proven right if they survive death and are released from terrestrial temptations: “And death be strong, yet love is strong as death”.

  25. 1. Why was the discourse on the “Fallen Woman” so topical in the Victorian Era? What was the Pre-Raphaelite stance on the topic, in comparison with the status quo?

    The myth of the ’fallen woman’ takes its origin in the bible, book genesis. In the Garden of Eden the woman Eve is tempted by a snake which equals Satan and tempts Adam to take the forbidden apple, resulting in man’s fall and the expulsion from paradise. From then on people on earth need to proof every day that they are worthy of returning to paradise after they have died.
    In The Victorian Era Christianity and its moral bearings became majorly important once more. After centuries of institutionalized devotion individual study of the gospel and the self were advocated by emerging religious groups like the Puritans. These observations were supposed to control if one was one of the morally pure chosen to enter paradise after death. Consequently, purity of soul and body became unalterable attributes of the ideal woman in the Victorian era. Looking at the role of women during queen Victoria’s reign holding tight to this ideal was perceived as a social necessity. The strict division between public and private sphere made the working men rely on their woman protecting a home. Any deviation from her focus on her wifely duties would surely end in chaos and drop in prestige for the whole family.
    Exactly these circumstances, though, enticed the Angel in the House to ‘fall’. Being assigned to her keep all day an intelligent or passionate woman could easily get frustrated with her bland occupation and her thoughts might wonder elsewhere and if opportunity arose actions might follow. Societal circumstances added to the myriad of reasons why a woman became ‘fallen’ and the re-fashioning of urban lives offered more opportunities and drew many into the necessity. As a result of industrialization the cities filled up with people looking for work and dreaming of a better life. Hunched together not only problems about housing and sanitation, food and money arose but also personal crises. Young men away from home and lonesome (thinking of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer) in the big city might seek for enjoyment and comfort with whores in brothels, additionally lured by the cultural tale of the femme fatale. These circumstances might account for the surprisingly high number of prostitutes in the big cities. These women were regarded as completely deviant from the moral sublimity attributed to women at the time. Summed up, a ‘Fallen woman’ was a female who caused by seduction, degenerated moral standards or need, mostly poverty, deviated in her conduct from the Victorian ideal of a woman’s behavior. This also included rape which was not uncommon in the narrow, dark crime-packed streets of the major centers.
    The attitude towards a woman who had ‘fallen’ changed towards the end of the 19th century. In the beginning, her exclusion from society was brutal and irrevocable. A married woman who committed adultery for example having betrayed her family would have to leave her home and would not be allowed to ever see her children again. Without the hope of ever being let back into the circle of friends and family again or starting a new life with someone new she was condemned to the streets in danger of attempting suicide.
    This can be observed by the different depictions of the ‘fallen woman’ in art and the purposes these paintings were supposed to serve. In his painting The Outcast showing a devastated family lamenting ‘the fall’ of one daughter with her illegitimate child in her arms while she is being demanded out the door by her father, Richard Redgrave wants to make the pain and shame the family endures graspable and also shows the fate – for most Victorians the just consequence of her misconduct – the young girl now faces: isolation and poverty. Redgrave’s intention is to warn women not to walk off the right tracks by shocking them with what would be the inevitable result. Other criticism is even harsher and more deterrent like George Frederic Watts’ Found Drowned depicting a lifeless woman found after her suicide by jumping off a bridge.
    Was this the prevalent view of the matter in the middle of the century less conservative artists as the Pre-Raphaelites started rethinking the condemnation of ‘the fallen woman’ by exploring the circumstances of these women. Being of the opinion that the reasons for the women’s situations were not black and white and that leaving them helpless as well as not able to redeem for their accused sins was not a solution, these artists started to paint their understanding and suggestion of mercy. In his painting Awakening Conscience William Holman Hunt pleas for the possibility to repent when a misbehaving woman realizes that the situation she is in is not right and not what she wanted. Ford Madox Brown, on the other hand, points towards the fact that also men should be aware of their responsibility when entering a relationship with a woman out of wedlock. Take Your Son, Sir shows a woman in the moment she wants to hand her illegitimate naked infant to its father.
    Happily, around this time institutions were founded to help ‘fallen women’ and/or their children to have a roof over their heads and an opportunity.

  26. BAHAR UN

    4. “Goblin Market” has been read as lesbian love story, fantasy, story of redemption and criticism of capitalism. What is your personal reader’s response to this unusual text?

    “Goblin Market” published in 1862 is a narrative poem by Christina Rossetti, an English poet of the late19th century. It is simply about two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, the first of whom goblins manage to deceive with their fantastic abundance and variety of fruits. After enjoying the delicious fruits which she pays with a lock of her hair, she becomes unable to hear goblin chants and cries and the lack of goblin fruits makes her sick. Day by day, not only her physical deterioration but also her depression deepen. Once Lizzie recognizes her unnaturally quick aging after months, she heads to goblins in a search of some sort of antidote. Unlike Laura, she prefers to pay with silver to buy goblin fruit in order to help her sister rather than dining with them and enjoying delicious fruits but goblins force her to ingest at least a bit juice of their fruits but she successfully runs away with some left on her body which she hopes her sister will drink and then recover. Surprisingly, the taste of goblin fruits on Lizzie`s body turns out to be disgusting for Laura, not satisfying her desire and the poem ends with Laura`s quick transformation both physically and emotionally.

    Rossetti`s “Goblin Market” is a poem which has been interpreted from several different perspectives as a cautionary tale, a religious manifesto, a critique of capitalism and an ecofeminist utopia. My personal reading is much closer to its being a critique of capitalism along with endowment to two female figures with more agency and subjectivity. Here are my arguments:

    The setting is an agricultural marketplace where goblins sell their magnificent fruits to the lower or working class people like Laura and Lizzie. In Victorian era, cultural structure normally puts women and children within a domestic sphere as politically insignificant and nonspeaking subjects but in Rossetti`s poem marketplace becomes a space for women as well, not only for wealthy middle class males like goblins to be visible in public sphere. The fruits represent these merchants`capital in a fantastic abundance, variety and savour.
    Bloom down cheek`d peaches,
    Swart-headed mulberries,
    Wild free-born cranberries,

    All ripe together
    In summer weather, –¹
    In this sense, the goblins are meant to be greedy merchants who hold financial and social power at hand and represented as small, grotesque and evil in the poem by resembling animals with strange manner and appearance such as “the whisk-tail`d”, “the cat-faced purr`d”, “the rat-faced”. ²
    The merchant goblins, representations of a male subjectivity controlled
    by a market ideology, are “little men,” but also less- than-human beings,
    part cat, rat, ratel, snail, or wombat. They, like their enchanted produce,
    seem to be the result of some strange reproductive process that sacrifices
    procreation to production. The goblins’ hybrid or mutant form is richly
    suggestive: it denotes their paradoxical, deceptive nature and prefigures
    the degeneration caused by consuming their “goods.” ³
    As for Lizzie, she represents a wise buyer with a bit financial capital like silver and also she is well aware of marketing tactics of goblins. Despite their use of force, she never consumes their productions (fruits) but only interaction of her with them is to do shopping. Not only warns she Lizzie against goblins` evil fruits with the cautionary tale of Jeanie, another girl who dies shortly after eating goblins`fruits, but also becomes she her savior and female hero of the poem. On the other hand, it is obvious that throughout the poem, Lizzie does not only saves her sister, but also saves her money, fruit juice on her body and most importantly herself.
    …in this subversive world of fantasy, only the women, the “maids,”
    are endowed with humanity with it the possibility of achieving grace:
    the male figures in the poem are a different species of being, the grotesque,
    bestial, and mercantile goblins, the reductio ad absurdum of a belief in
    male dominance of a market economy and the reversal of progressive
    evolution. Immediately set up is a dichotomy between merchant/ inhuman
    and female/human that suggests what is to come: if you buy the fruits of
    this orchard – if you buy a belief in a market economy couched in religious
    terms – then you will surely die. But at this point in the poem, temptation
    is everything, and the goblin fruits represent something that the women
    want, even if it is something they know they cannot have: a place where
    the fruits are produced, a place in, and a piece of, the economic action. ⁴
    Unlikely, Laura represents a typical consumer by offering a lock of her hair in return for goblins`fruits for she has not had any financial capital to pay with. Such physical involvement in the process of exchange shows her being more into the cycle of capitalism unlike Lizzie. After her consummation of delicious fruits of goblins, she becomes unable to hear their chants and calls but these charming chants and calls are still hearable by Lizzie since she is not physically involved like Laura, which makes her a potential customer to be targeted. Towards the end, Laura recognizes that nature also stops giving response to her after checking the seed she has planted a while ago, which shows her action in consummating a material exchange is completely against natural laws.

    ¹Christina Rossetti. “Goblin Market”. 9-16
    ²Ibid., 107-110.
    ³Elizabeth Campbell. “Of Mothers and Merchants: Female Economics in Christina Rossetti`s `Goblin Market`” p. 399

    – Campbell, Elizabeth. “Of Mothers and Merchants: Female Economics in Christina Rossetti`s `Goblin Market`”. Victorian Studies, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Spring, 1990), p. 393-410. Accessed 19-01-2017. Web.
    -Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market” Poetry Foundation. Accessed 19-01-2017. Web.


    1. Why was the discourse on the “Fallen Woman” so topical in the Victorian Era? What was the Pre-Raphaelite stance on the topic, in comparison with the status quo?

    The Victorian Era was the period of the Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901. It is a period characterized by changes and developments in such fields as science and technology, but it is also characterized by changes in population growth. However, this changes and success were not shared with lower classes. This period of industrial progress was based on the exploitation of people from the working classes.

    Regarding women’s issues, women continued to be seen as “the angel in the house”, a term coined by Coventry Patmore, a Victorian poet. This term provides a good description for the attitude towards women during that period. That is, women had to dedicate their lives to be a good wife. They had to love and adore their husband as well as take care of their children.

    However, it is not surprising that the term “fallen woman” came to light during this period characterised by the repression of women. A period when women were supposed to be submitted to their husband. This term was especially used during the 19th century to refer to those women who lost their innocence. That is, their chastity. The origins of this term come from the fall in the Garden of Eden, thus making Eve the first fallen woman in history. Although this term referred to all kind of fallen women (women who had sex out of marriage, those who had been raped, or those who had a lower socio-economic situation), it especially referred to prostitution. During the 19th century, women had less work options, so that if they saw themselves in the need of economic support, prostitution was the only (or better) option to earn money. Additionally, prostitution was starting to be perceived as a large social problem and it also raised the question of who was to blame. If it was only the woman or the social circumstances as well.

    On the other hand, the fallen woman was not criticised by everyone in that period. Fortunately, Pre-Raphaelite artists used them as a source of inspiration for their paintings. They empathised with the situation of these woman. Among these Pre-Raphaelite artists who represented the fallen woman in some of their paints are William Holman Hunt, Ford Madox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

    In The Awakening of Conscience by William Holman Hunt, he represents a scene where a woman and his lover seem to have been fooling around and she is now aware of what she was doing. She became aware of what she was doing was not right. However, they seem that they did not have an affair actually, they were just playing. Additionally, since the focus is on the woman rather than on the man, maybe Hunt wanted to represent through this painting that there is still hope for redemption. That is, that the woman can still follow the grace of God.

    In Take Your Son, Sir by Ford Madox Brown, he represents a woman with a child in her lap. This painting deals with who is responsible for the child. In this case, the focus of attention is also on the man, although he can only be seen at the back, in his reflection through the mirror. The painting represents in this case that the woman is not the only one who is responsible for the child. Her attitude demands that they both should share responsibility.
    Finally, in Found by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, he represents a scene where a man finds a woman and it seems that she knows him. Maybe he is her husband and he has just discovered that she is a prostitute, so that he is forcing her to go back home with him. Although, she does not want to return to that lifestyle. She does not want to be submitted again. Additionally, it is important to mention the figure of the calf at the back of the painting. It is a neat representation of the woman and her situation at that moment.

    In conclusion, regarding the role of woman during the Victorian era, this was a period when they were repressed and submitted to their husband. And due to economic reasons, some of them were forced into prostitution so they could solve these problems. It was then when the term “fallen woman” came to light. However, fortunately, they were not alone in that situation, they had somehow the support of the Pre-Raphaelite artists.

    Sources: (accessed 21.01.2017) (accessed 21.01.2017) (accessed 21.01.2017) (accessed 21.01.2017) (accessed 21.01.2017)


    2. John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle seem to have been intellectuals whose writings were extremely influential among the Pre-Raphaelite artists. Pick one and describe an aspect of their writing and the influence on art.

    Thomas Carlyle

    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), considered an important social commentator during the Victorian era, was a Scottish historian, sociologist, philosopher and critic whose famous work is On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, in which he claims that “history is nothing but the biography of the Great Man”.

    Regarding this last quotation, it is important to say that one of the most remarkable aspects of his writing is his idea of work. An idea that is reflected in his work Past and Present, especially in Chapter XI, called Labour, and that served as source of influence for Work, a painting by Ford Madox Brown.

    Throughout the whole chapter, Carlyle worships work (especially manual work) and rejects idleness. In fact, this is especially stated since the very beginning of the chapter: “For there is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work. Were he never so benighted forgetful of his high calling, there is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works: in Idleness alone is there perpetual despair.”, lines 1-3. Additionally, as Carlyle expresses in this chapter, there is a connection between man, work and nature. According to him, once you know your work and finish it, you will know yourself and reach the truth, which lies in Nature.

    On the other hand, Carlyle also relates labour with harmony. Working is the only way to perfect oneself, and Carlyle knows that there are such feelings as doubt, desire, remorse, indignation or despair that torment the soul of the worker but, it is the man who freely commits himself to work, and once he does his task, all those feelings will finally vanish and he will reach harmony.

    It is also important to mention how Carlyle regards work as something sacred. According to him, those who find a work are blessed because they have finally found a purpose in their life. They have found something to do, something to commit themselves in life. Additionally, and related to this, as he states in lines in line 41, “Labour is Life”. That is, labour is what fills the heart of the worker. Labour is the essence of his life (“from the inmost heart of the Worker rises his god-given Force, the sacred celestial Life-essence breathed into him by Almighty God”).

    As it has been mentioned before, this idea of work served as a source of influence for Ford Madox Brown in his famous painting Work. In this painting, Brown portrays the entirety of the Victorian social system. Although, the working class, represented in the middle, is the focus of the whole painting. The main figure is the man with the white shirt, a young healthy worker. He is a navvy and is portrayed in a way he shows a proud attitude, as if he were important. In the foreground of the painting, a woman with his children are also portrayed. These figures represent a complex situation. She is idle dressed because she cannot afford a good clothing. She belongs to the sub-working class. On the left of the painting, there is also a woman carrying flowers over her head. She is maybe a collector and has to wake up earlier in order to harvest.

    On the other hand, in contrast with the image of the working class people, on the right side of the painting, there are portrayed unemployed people. They seem to be sleeping on the ground. They represent the idleness, those who do not want to work in order to have a purpose in their life.

    Finally, around the working class people, there are portrayed people from higher classes. On the one hand, on the left of the painting, there is a woman from middle class. She represents the aristocratic women, who sometimes are more worried about themselves whereas others are more worried about the society. On the other hand, at the back of the painting, there are portrayed people on their horses. They seem to not being living the real life. That is, the life of work.

    It is important to mention how well separated and distinguished are every social class. Perhaps, this was the intention of the painter: to make clear the differences between them and their respective attitudes towards work. Additionally, the fact that Thomas Carlyle along with Frederick Denison Maurice are also portrayed in this painting. This makes even clearer the influence of Carlyle in Brown’s painting.

    In conclusion, Thomas Carlyle has a particular idea of work. He regards work as something sacred and maybe as something divine. He emphasizes the idea of working in order to have a purpose in your life and that there is no room for being idle. This idea of the importance of work is well-portrayed in Brown’s painting, where he contrasts the working class people with the unemployed people who did not find a work, a purpose in their life.

    Sources: (accessed 07.02.2017) (accessed 07.02.2017) (accessed 07.02.2017)

  29. Describe one artist (Aubrey Beardsley or Oscar Wilde) and how he reworked the “legacy” of Pre-Raphaelitism.

    By attempting to describe the influence of Oscar Wilde on Pre-Raphaelitism (or, rather, the influence of Pre-Raphaelitism on Oscar Wilde), one must emphasize the internal ideological developments within the Brotherhood from its early beginnings up until the fin de siècle, when the Pre-Raphaelite mood slowly dissolved into Aestheticism, Decadence and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Oscar Wilde’s hedonistic, dandyish lifestyle and view of art and design helped foster the shifting of all things Pre-Raphaelite towards an aesthetic worldview that not only engulfed the importance of art but found its way into all aspects of life. In an 1882 lecture, Wilde had described the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as “[having] on their side three things that the English public never forgives: youth, power and enthusiasm.” [1] It was precisely this deliberate shocking of bourgeois standards in the art of “Dante Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Millais” [2] that had most intrigued Wilde. In the same lecture, he goes on talking about the impact of these artists, saying that:
    “Satire, always as sterile as it is shameful and as impotent as it is insolent, paid them that usual homage which mediocrity pays to genius—doing, here as always, infinite harm to the public, blinding them to what is beautiful, teaching them that irreverence which is the source of all vileness and narrowness of life, but harming the artist not at all, rather confirming him in the perfect rightness of his work and ambition. For to disagree with three-fourths of the British public on all points is one of the first elements of sanity, one of the deepest consolations in all moments of spiritual doubt.” [3]
    Wilde here neglects the earlier Pre-Raphaelites whose agenda was neither to spark controversy nor to shock the public for the sake of shocking, but rather to communicate a sense of religiosity and/ or morality in art. For Wilde the bourgeois public, as a homogeneous mass, represented tedious, prudish moral standards and, simply, bad taste. The young Oxford graduate wanted to offend this public with not only his writing but his whole attire, creating an art movement that meant to convey his art-for-art’s-sake ideology but also fashioning himself in regards to that purpose. Through his clothes, his way of speaking and behaving, and through the environment he decorated and surrounded himself with, Wilde’s ultimate project of art was the stylization of his own person as a dandy and artist – colourful, witty, shocking. When asked about his aspirations in life he would declare that all he wanted was to live up to his collection of blue china that he kept in his Oxford dorm [4].
    Oscar Wilde remains paradoxical in his relationship towards morality or social meaning. While proclaiming that only art and beauty has value and should not be used to convey moralizing tones, he is not able to fully extricate himself out of this role, especially when reading Dorian Gray. His appearance within the artistic field had nonetheless pulled the Pre-Raphaelite mood towards a more aestheticized, l’art pour l’art paradigm. The movement had exhibited the same thoughts as early as 1849 when Rossetti published a story of a depressed artist who suffers through his failure to improve the world, but is later ‘saved’ by his own soul in the form of a woman, instructing him to cultivate his own mind and art instead of society [5]. Wilde therefore did not fully transform the late nineteenth century artistic field but was influenced by various artists, including Pre-Raphaelites, whose legacy then in turn received influence by him.

    [1] Wilde, Oscar. The English Renaissance of Art. University College Cork Corpus of Electronic Texts, 1997-2016,
    [2] ibid. List of names Wilde gives in the lecture, indicating the people to be prime examples of Pre-Raphaelitism. Richard Ellmann writes that already in his university years Wilde “would get hold of the Pre-Raphaelites’ books the moment they appeared.” (Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. Vintage, 1988, pp. 32)
    [3] ibid.
    [4] A ‘younger’ Stephen Fry funnily refers to that in one of the interviews done for the movie adaption of a part of Wilde’s life, (reflecting at least a tiny bit of the drawling Wildean attitude). (“Oscar Wilde Movie Interview 1.” Youtube, Aug 13, 2008,
    [5] Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. “Hand and Soul.” Rossetti Archive, 2007,

  30. Response Paper 3 (old study question for English Nebenfach)- “Goblin Market” has been read as lesbian love story, fantasy, story of redemption and criticism of capitalism. What is your personal reader’s response to this unusual text?

    The “Goblin Market” is a very complex poem written by Christina Rossetti that shows her ability to incorporate in a single lyric many different topics and bind them together in what almost seems to resemble a fairy tale. So complex is this poem that the reader’s responses have been the most different throughout the years: the elements of the story of Laura, Lizzie and the goblin market might be interpreted from a feminist, a religious or even eco-critical point of view. Each item in the poem seem to gain a new meaning according to the interpretation given to it. For instance, the fruits that Laura finds at the goblin market might be a symbol of temptation from a religious point of view but from an eco-critical perspective they can be seen as a symbol for waist or consumerism. Even if the interpretations of this poem are many and all legitimate, there is one that, in my opinion, really suits this lyric: the critic to capitalism. Following, I will try to outline the reasons that brought me to interpret the “Goblin Market” this way.

    Interpreting the “Goblin Market” as a critic to capitalism means first of all to consider this poem from an historical point of view by trying to understand the references the lyric makes to the time in which it was written. In 1848, more than ten years before the “Goblin Market” (1859) was published, Karl Marx published his “Communist Manifesto”, a pamphlet that discusses the sharp conflict between the interests of bourgeoisie and the working class. This book had, in the time of Europe’s massive industrialization, a huge resonance from a literary and political point of view. The excessive consumerism of the wealthy middle class and the exploitation of the lower classes, already mentioned in Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”, seem to find an important echo in Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”, making this poem not only a critic to the contemporary political attitudes but, more in general, a critic to capitalism.

    One of the first elements of the poem that might hint at the possibility of reading it as a critic to capitalism is the goblins’ cry “Come buy, come buy” (v. 2), a cry that the goblins repeat in the poem almost like mantra. The goblins tempt and lure their customers into buying their precious fruits that seem to come from all over the world and that they display all together at their market. They invite the costumers to try them, promising how “sweet to the tongue and sound to the eye” (v. 30) they are. From the first lines of the poem it is already possible to feel the pressure that a capitalist society can exercise over people to make them buy more and more. “Come buy, come buy” does not want to be an invitation but an order and the heaviness of this order is highlighted even more by the enormous quantity of food listed in the poem, symbol of the huge variety of goods available in a capitalistic society and of the need of a customer to have them all. The wealthy class, interested in making money out of the goods that were offered through imperialism and the colonization of exotic lands in the 19th century, seems to be represented in the poem by the figures of the greedy, clever, evil goblins. The symbolic function of the goblins becomes even clearer when the two protagonists of the poem, Laura and Lizzie, are introduced to the reader.

    Laura and Lizzie seem to come from a different word than the one of the goblins. From the description of their daily routine (“Fetch’d in honey, milk’d the cows, / Air’d and set to rights the house… (vv. 203-204)) they seem, in fact, to come from the countryside, that in the poem is described as an idyllic place opposed to the goblins’ market. Alone Laura’s and Lizzie’s provenience can be interpreted as a symbol of the increasing urbanization of the 19th century, a period in which many people from the countryside were drawn and attracted to the city with the hope of finding better paid jobs in industries. The fascination for the city life and the idea of a better lifestyle are also discussed in the poem with the figure of Lizzie, who is deeply attracted to the fruits the goblins sell, which she, however, cannot afford. Once she gives in to the temptation of trying one of these fruits, and sell her hair for that, she immediately becomes dependent upon those and it troubles her to live without them once she cannot afford more. The figure of Lizzie and her actions, in this sense, symbolize the relationship between the upper and the lower class, in which the upper class exploits the needs of the lower to reach its goals and the lower remains dependent and suffers because of the choices made by the middle class.

    The conflict between the classes, on the other hand, is discussed with the figure of Laura, who refuses from the very beginning to have any kind of relation with the goblins and who, however, finds herself to deal with them in the hope of making her sister happy again. When the goblins invite her to try their fruits, however, she refuses vehemently, rejecting metaphorically the idea of being controlled and dependent upon the upper class (Cowan,Tyler “The Goblin Market”). In this part of the poem, the bourgeoisie also shows its real face by becoming extremely aggressive when Laura declines the offer of eating the fruits, showing that this class is not interested in the well-being of the workers but exclusively in their own profit.

    In conclusion, it is possible to say that there are many elements and topics in the poem that seem to favor the interpretation of this lyric as a critic towards the capitalism. The figure of the goblins, Lizzie and Laura, the symbolic function of the fruits seem to lead the reader to interpret the poem considering the historical background in which it was written. However, the poem is so complex that reading it and limiting it only to one interpretation cannot express the full meaning of it.



    Cowan,Tyler. “The Goblin Market”. Prezi. 28.11.2012. Last accessed: 14.02.2017

  31. Response Paper 4 – Describe one artist (Aubrey Beardsley or Oscar Wilde) and how he reworked the “legacy” of Pre-Raphaelitism. Alternatively, focus on a movement (symbolism, art nouveau).

    The English Decadence and Aestheticism are intrinsically associated with the name of one of the major novelists, poets and playwrights of the world’s literature: Oscar Wilde. Wilde revolutionized the world of art by following new aesthetic principles that clearly strayed away from the conventions of the time and that elevated his artistic individuality above all the cultural canons of the time. The innovations Wilde brought were not only inspired by his own creative genius and philosophy but also by the artistic movements of the past that offered him a model to imitate and reinterpret. Among these, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood seems to have exercised a great influence over the author’s aesthetic production under many points of view that will be following analyzed.

    “In England, then as now, it was enough for a man to try and produce any serious beautiful work to lose all his rights as a citizen; and besides this, the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood […] had on their side three things that the English public never forgives: youth, power and enthusiasm.” (Wilde, “The English Renaissance of Art”). These are the words Oscar Wilde used in the lecture “The English Renaissance of Art” to explain the reason why the Pre-Raphaelites were so much criticized by the society of their time. Implicitly, one might already see in these words a first parallelism between the Pre-Raphaelites and Oscar Wilde: both stray away from the “ordinary apathy” (Wilde, “The English Renaissance of Art”) of the Victorian culture, both have a conflictual relation with the public, both try to go beyond the “bourgeois standards” (Wong, “Ruskin, Wilde, Satire, and the Birth of Aestheticism”) and try to offer new ideals of art. In this sense, it is possible to state that Wilde’s rebellious position towards the hegemonial culture of the time is part of a tradition that started, in the 19th century, with the Pre-Raphaelites. Part of this tradition is also the concept of shocking the public, a concept that Oscar Wilde takes from the Pre-Raphaelites and reworks differently: in fact, if the Pre-Raphaelites used their works to present to the public realities that were considered distasteful for the moral of the time to draw their criticism, Wilde shifted the focus from the external reality to the inner dimension of the soul, showing that in everybody there is something dark and immoral that cannot be concealed with the values of the Victorian society.

    By shocking the public with his works, Oscar Wilde wanted to elaborate a concept of art that goes beyond the moral judgment of good and bad, exactly like the Pre-Raphaelites. However, if the Pre-Raphaelites disagreed with these moral concepts only as they were intended in the Victorian society, they did not deny that there is a kind of morality, rooted in a deeper spirituality that is worth representing in art. Religion played for instance a great role in the artistic works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, because it offered a model of true beauty or, as Ruskin states: “Ideas of beauty are among the noblest which can be presented to the human mind […]; and it would appear that we are intended by the Deity to be constantly under their influence” (Wong, “Ruskin, Wilde, Satire, and the Birth of Aestheticism”). Reading between the lines of this quotation allows to identify already in the ideas of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood the nucleus of Aestheticism: “art for art’s sake”. For Ruskin, as well as for Aesthetes, the role of art and its goal is, in fact, to show beauty in itself and in all its forms. However, for Ruskin (and indirectly for the Pre-Raphaelites) art remains a direct expression of God and any experience of beauty is seen as related to God himself (Wong, “Ruskin, Wilde, Satire, and the Birth of Aestheticism”). Oscar Wilde, on the contrary, “knew that the senses, no less than the soul, have their spiritual mysteries to reveal” (Wilde, “The Picture of Dorian Grey”, p. 115) refusing therefore to bind the aesthetic experience to God or religion and reinterpreting spirituality from a purely aesthetic and almost physical point of view. Oscar Wilde, like the Pre-Raphaelites before him, rejects therefore the moral judgments of the Victorian society but goes also a step ahead his source of inspiration by showing to the public the extreme form of the concept of “art for art’s sake”, a kind of art that must be freed from any kind of moral judgment and that cannot be considered in terms of good or bad neither from a social nor from a religious point of view.

    In conclusion, it is possible to state that the Pre-Raphaelites had indeed a great influence on Wilde’s artistic development and represented for him not only a model but a starting point for his innovations. Oscar Wilde, in fact, shares with the Pre-Raphaelites similar goals, but he reworks and reinterpret the ideas of society, spirituality, religion and morality already discussed by the Brotherhood under the light of a new decadent philosophy, which leads to the overcoming of the leading principles of the Pre-Raphaelites and to a new artistic era: the Aestheticism.



    Wilde, Oscar. “The English Renaissance of Art”. The Literature Network. . Last accessed: 13.02.2017

    Wilde, Oscar. “The Picture of Dorian Grey”. Prestwick House: Clayton. 2005. 115.

    Wong, Ryan. “Ruskin, Wilde, Satire, and the Birth of Aestheticism”. The Victorian Web. 2008. . Last accessed: 13.02.2017

  32. John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle seem to have been intellectuals whose writings were extremely influential among the Pre-Raphaelite artists. Pick one and describe an aspect of their writing and the influence on art.

    In his day, John Ruskin produced an uncountable number of pieces concerning art and art criticism; yet, nowadays he is most widely remembered as one of the most important Victorian “Sages”, or “Prophets”, whose political agenda was motivated by a desire to bring about social and cultural change through polemical prose [1]. This short paper seeks to outline (more or less chronologically) the broader ideologies and basic developments of Ruskin’s influential professional life, showing how his writings and aims worked and reworked Victorian self-conception.
    An advocate of Romantic sentiment in art, Ruskin began to inscribe the motivation of artists to produce a Romantic feeling into the more institutionalized realm of art criticism. In his 1843 first volume of Modern Painters, Ruskin defends William Turner’s proto-Impressionist paintings that tried to generate an atmospheric sensuality through heavy use of blurry lightness, contrasting darkness and a rather soft focus. Neoclassical critics had previously devalued later works of Turner that were characterized by these elements. While they had agreed to deny Turner’s work the representation of ‘general truth’ (in the tradition of Sir Joshua Reynolds), Ruskin insisted on Turner being awarded precisely that predicate: For him, these paintings exemplified a brilliant “truth of Nature” [2], conveyed through “a profound knowledge of the natural form” [3].
    In the second volume of Modern Painters, Ruskin would distinguish himself explicitly from an aesthetic concept of art in favor of one grounded in a thoroughly moral and religious purpose. For him, art should promote an upright ethical framework for people to strive for and should not be used for pleasure only. In one of his lectures, Ruskin would later explain that “good taste is essentially a good moral quality” [4], promoting the thought that a ‘good’ work of art is to be recognized by its moral character. He declares that “[w]hat we *like* determines what we *are*, and is the sign of what we are; and to teach taste is inevitably to form character.” [5]
    As an art critic, Ruskin participated in the theoretical rediscovery of the painting and architecture of the Gothic Middle Ages, believing that artists like Giotto and Gozzoli could be used as models to promote a new school of ‘modern’ art. [6] This enthusiasm for all things mediaeval most likely lead Ruskin to stand up for the concerns of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who were severely attacked by the established artistic field for rejecting neoclassical ideals that were so prevalent when they first appeared. In a letter to The Times, Ruskin declared that “there has been nothing in art so earnest or so complete as these pictures since the days of Albert Durer.” [7] Based on his admiration for Romanticism, Ruskin admires the young artists for their desire “to paint fair pictures rather than represent stern facts, of which the consequences has been that from Raphael’s time to this day historical art has been in acknowledged decadence.” [8] Ruskin thus favors a representation of beauty in art that is inherent and expressed through a divine presence within the natural world.
    In the field of architecture, Ruskin was even more interested in the revival of the Gothic Middle Age. A medieavial Gothic building for Ruskin expressed the Romantic ideal in equal terms as Turner’s paintings or Wordsworth’s poetry do. Involved in various projects concerning the construction of enormous Gothic buildings, Ruskin found a way to express this Romanticized Medievalism.
    It is important to note that Ruskin ultimately funneled the importance all of his (late) art criticism into the promotion of his socio-political ideas that sought to balance out problematic he witnessed within Victorian Industrialized culture. In reference to his Gothic ideal, Ruskin observes the following double standards:
    “I notice that among all the new buildings that cover your once wild hills, churches and schools are mixed in due, that is to say, in large proportion, […] and I notice also that the churches and schools are almost always Gothic, and the mansions and mills are never Gothic. […] [This] is peculiarly a modern phenomenon. When Gothic was invented, houses were Gothic as well as churches. […] But now you live under one school of architecture, and worship under another. What do you mean by doing this?” [9]
    Here Ruskin explores not only the hypocritical superficiality of outward appearance within Victorian society, but also how the ‘modern’ times produce buildings and artifacts that, through their industrialized manufacturing, lose any kind of value and beauty. During all his later life, Ruskin ‘s writings worked as a battleground of his own struggle with industrial capitalism, equating feudal goods produced by the artisan ideal as being made with pleasure and artistic freedom and in unity with the individual worker, whereas capitalist products for Ruskin would symbolize the harsh unfairness and unpleasantness of their mode of production.

    *…* = italics, by the author

    Works cited:
    [1] Shrimpton, Nicholas. “John Ruskin.” Encyclopeadia Brittanica, May 20, 2008,
    [2] Ruskin, John. Modern Painters, vol. 1, Gutenberg , Sept 4, 2009,
    [3] Shrimpton, Nicholas. “John Ruskin.” Encyclopeadia Brittanica, May 20, 2008,
    [4] Ruskin, John. “Traffic.” The Crown of Wilde Olive. Wiley, 1881, pp. 49. (
    [5] Ibid., pp. 51.
    [6] Shrimpton, Nicholas. “John Ruskin.” Encyclopeadia Brittanica, May 20, 2008,
    [7] Ruskin, John. “The Pre-Raffaelites.” Letter to the Editor, London Times, (13 May 1851), pp. 8-9. (
    [8] Ibid.
    [9] Ruskin, John. “Traffic.” The Crown of Wilde Olive. Wiley, 1881, pp. 56. (

    2. John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle seem to have been intellectuals whose writings were extremely influential among the Pre-Raphaelite artists. Pick one and describe an aspect of their writing and the influence on art.

    Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish philosopher, satirist, essayist and historian of 19th century, is known for his concept of the “Great Man” whose actions form history thus, history is nothing more than the biography of the “Great Man”. In his book Past and Present published in 1843 which mainly criticizies 19th century British society, he describes the essence of the “Great Man” and his Work especially in Chapter XI – Labour as such:
    For there is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work. …in Idleness alone
    is there perpetual despair. …Work … is in communication with Nature; the real desire
    to get Work done will itself lead one more and more t truth, to Nature`s appointments
    and regulations, which are truth. …Work is of a religious nature:–work is of a brave
    nature; which it is the aim of all religion to be. …Thou shalt be a Great Man. Yes, my
    World-Soldier, thou of the World Marine-service, …shalt embrace it, harness it down;
    and make it bear thee on, –to new Americas, or whither God wills!
    Here, he is not only mentioning that through work man can elevate his social status up to nobility which is normally gained at birth but also making relations that work can be a way to reach to truth with its sacred nature. His ideas on labour, class and religion have resonated, of course, in contemporary art works. The most prominent of them is Work(1865) by Ford Madox Brown, an English painter of the Pre-Raphaelite style where Carlyle himself is depicted with Friedrick Maurice, a majot theologian of the Church of England as well as one of the dounders of Christian Socialism. This painting which exists in two versions, one in Manchester and the other in Birmingham is regarded as a celebration of the protestant work ethic like hard work and discipline.

    It actually portrays the transition from a rural to an urban economy as well as the totality of Victorian social system with its figures from different social background in one frame. Firstly, in the painting we see navvies, manual labourers wotking on civil engineering projects of 19th century and here a group of navvies are digging up the road in order to build an underground tunnel maybe for sewerage system which is a sign of development of urban community thus, modernisation. In relation to Carlyle`s notion of ideal work, both Carlyle and Brown indeed find modernity positive since this is a social work done for the sake of public in order to perfect their ways of life. The foregrounded progress from rural life to urbanisation in the painting is closely linked to Carlyle`s notion of revolving by which “A formless Chaos …is no longer a Chaos, but a round compacted World. …so long as she revolves, all inequalities, irregularities disperse themselves; …are incessantly becoming regular.” As for the Victorian social system, the painting has a good mix of different social classes which are put on certain spaces on purpose in order to give a clear sense of strict border among sacred action doers: workers, the cultivated idle: intellectuals and the dishonoured idle: upper class. The concentrated labour is in the middle occupying the bright ground while the rural unemployed people are pushed aside but in a mood of chill. Carlyle and Maurice also occupy the middle space along with navvies, which means that they are as much part of this holy progress of public as manual workers, even though they seem to be idle in appearance, as their contribution is intellectual, not physical. What matters here is to be productive or unproductive, not the way how one becomes productive. Horse riding aristocrats are seen as pushed back in the shade as well as unable to progress since their way is blocked by diligent and passionate labourers.

    Overall, like Carlyle`s book, Brown`s painting also gets its inspiration from criticism of laissez faire economy system by illustrating Victorian social system in such a busy composition. Unlike a representation of social harmony, it depicts a potentially violent confrontation along with its extremely realistic details of Victorian everyday life.

  34. Describe One Artist (Aubrey Beardsley or Oscar Wilde) and How He Reworked the “Legacy” of Pre-Raphaelitism.

    Oscar Wilde was one of the most prominent supporters of the aestheticism movement, which saw the main function of art in its beauty rather than any deeper meaning and for that used the term “art for art’s sake”. This movement was connected on many levels with Ruskin’s ideas and turned Wilde into his follower and a great defender of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

    The aesthetic movement was generally focused on the art itself and not on the society’s relation to art like the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Still in there basis the themes and beliefs, developed in their works were common. Even though the interest of beauty is generally connected with the aesthetics, it was Ruskin who first proposed the idea that beauty is the ultimate goal of art and everything beautiful is created by God. This theological concept however is absent by Wilde, who attaches greater significance on the artist or poet themselves. Thus, nature is seen as working for the artist, rather than their source of inspiration, whose “chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets”. A similar perception can be noticed by the Pre-Raphaelites and especially by Ruskin as he considers the artist a prophet mediating between the divine and the public because people “rarely encounter any truth not too great for their capacities”. According to Wilde as well the artist serves as an interpreter of the nature since only art gives life to nature’s splendor but in his statement he leaves artist’s didactic function aside. In his perspective art should only be concerned with beauty and not teach or instruct.

    Wilde’s detachment of art from any social and political issues is an expression of his disapproval of the industrial and capitalist society at his time. Due to his socialist beliefs he was highly impressed by the first works of the Pre-Raphaelites, which were shocking and revolutionary in the Victorian age. Often depicting working class people, these paintings at first received critical responses from the most prominent critics and the majority of the Victorian people. However the negative comments aroused even stronger admiration in Wilde. He claimed that the public’s opinion was influenced by the bourgeois and a work is successful when it criticized. The revolution of the Brotherhood resembled closely the aesthetic one in terms of beauty norms, which differed significantly from the Victorian ideals of beauty. The Pre-Raphaelite models were mainly average working class women represented in a natural and realistic way. Wilde continued that free and natural themes in his ideas but added more exquisiteness and symbolism as beauty was more important than natural look.

    Wilde’s symbolism is most evident in his play “Salomé” filled with images of violence and sexuality even though based on a biblical story. The typological symbolism of the play is increased by the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, which represented offensive and pervert illustrations of biblical characters as well as sketches of Wilde himself. As Hunt and Rossetti used a lot of symbols in there paintings, especially the religious ones, Wilde and Beardsley could have adopted this technique from the Pre-Raphaelites. Still, the Brotherhood’s connotations were mainly connected with purity of the soul.

    One of the key symbols in Rossetti’s works was the lily representing virginity and piousness. It was again taken by Wilde, who turned it into his badge adding more sexual meaning to it since the lily also carries associations of femininity and beauty.

    To sum up one could say that Oscar Wilde was strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelistism and adopted many of its themes and ideas changing them to more symbolic, human-oriented irreligious to create an “art for art’s sake”.

  35. 3rd PAPER RESPONSE: John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle seem to have been intellectuals whose writings were extremely influential among the Pre-Raphaelite artists. Pick one and describe an aspect of their writing and the influence on art.

    In the scenario of the Industrial revolution, Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was an important Scottish writer who criticized materialistic values and utilitarian concerns evidenced by the industrialization. Carlyle’s romantic criticism of modern society was one of the most radical manifestations during Victorian 19th Century and also during the first decades of this century. He never became part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, however his close relationship with William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti made his work “Past and Present” (1843) an influential collection for this Brotherhood and their paintings. U. C. Knoepflmacher affirms in his review “Nineteenth- Century Fiction” that the “Carlylean message” was clear: “There is a possibility of natural supernaturalism, a simultaneous vision of the world as real and transcendental”. This “Carlylean message” was adopted by Pre-Raphaelites authors in their aim of representing nature as close as possible in their paintings; they paint from nature only.

    Carlyle was the first author who identified the Modern era as the Mechanical one, bringing up the dichotomy between traditional societies and the modern world with its capitalistic values. Thus, in his belief that “Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand” he presented the figure of the artist with nostalgia caused by remembrance of past times. The revolution against Victorian society carried out by Rossetti, Hunt and Millais was an aesthetic movement against those Victorian ideals hostile to beauty. Thomas Carlyle’s hate to modern society and industrial civilization inspired the Pre-Raphaelites authors because they saw in art a way of escapism and confrontation of this reality contaminated by economic power. Therefore, they saw in Carlyle the embodiment of a patriarchal figure whose thoughts were shared and developed by authors as John Ruskin (1819-1900) and Willian Morris (1834- 1896) who also caused a great impact on the Pre-Raphaelites.

    The dichotomy between traditional and modern societies could be seen in “Labour- Past and Present”. Carlyle dedicated chapter XI to the praise of self- work and to the working class of Victorian England. However, this chapter is also a condemnation of English capitalistic society and its reduction of all values into monetary ones. The link between “Labour” and the Pre-Raphaelites appears with “Work” (1865) a painting by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893), an artist who started his illustration after reading Thomas Carlyle “Past and Present”. Brown’s piece of art goes in the same direction as Carlyle’s “Labour”, a social critic of upper classes, depicted in a background with no occupation, while the focus of the painting is the admired working class and their manufactural labour. It is important to highlight Brown’s focus on the figure of rich idles who life off other persons’ work, claiming in that way the importance of physical labour carried out by the working class to the development of the whole society in Nineteen England.
    Using a PRB approach, Brown’s work is full of meaningful details in order to be more realistic. Each single figure aims to represent social divisions during the 19th Century in England, however special attention deserve the group of “ragged dirty brats” as Brown names the orphans located in the middle of the picture. This state of orphanhood is indicated by a black ribbon on the baby’s arm. These children represent cholera, one of the main concerns for Victorian society and also the author own concerns, regarding the issue of sanitarian conditions. Therefore, this detailed representation of a social disease through the children figures can be read as a social criticism of working conditions, which exploited labourers prioritizing economic benefices, as well as an avocation for a sanitary reform. The realistic techniques used in both works, especially in the painting, achieve one of the most important aims of the Pre- Raphaelite Brotherhood: the communication with nature throughout its realistic representation.

    The second association between this Brotherhood and Thomas Carlyle is the nostalgia sentiment. Through the poem “The Defence of Guenevere”, Morris reinforces this idea of escapism from Modern life through an idealization of medieval times. At the same time, Carlyle’s sentiment of nostalgia is the motive of his confrontation to the industrial revolution and its consequences. The medieval era, its lifestyle and its ideal of beauty, was the idealized era that the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood wanted to recover, thus appeared this sentiment of nostalgia concerning past times.
    As a conclusion, it could be said that the figure of Thomas Carlyle, together with some Pre-Raphaelite authors, believed in a social realism rather than in a social idealism. These authors advocated for a realistic representation of life, showing the negative and positive aspects of reality in order to prevent social catastrophes, as diseases or capitalistic visions of the world. At the same time this social realism wants to be instructive to the population in its aim of developing those positive aspects of a society, as self-work and the needed working population.

  36. Question number 3: Describe one movement and how it reworked the “legacy” of Pre-Raphaelitism.
    The Pre-Raphaelites undeniable have influenced the British art world in the second half of the nineteenth century. Their vision concerning illustrations, poetry, and paintings differing the Victorian standards of their time resonates to this day. Aiming for a sincere and truthful aspect of their works by at once relying on medieval and Renaissance art made the Pre-Raphaelite style so distinct and extraordinary. Hence, one does not wonder that the Pre-Raphaelite standards have influenced many other movements in art and literature. Many artists and movements after the Pre-Raphaelite era have reworked its legacy. In that context, this response paper will concentrate on the Art Nouveau movement.
    Around the turn of the century, between 1880 and 1910, Art Nouveau has become an international style of art, ceramics, furniture and architecture. The style was mostly inspired by natural forms and structures but also adhered features of objets d’art from Japan and the East. A few of its most important characteristics are curved lines and flowers. Nevertheless, artists painting in the style of Art Nouveau also drew inspiration from geometric forms. Whereas the name “Art Nouveau” derived from the name of a Parisian shop the Italians called this style “Liberty Style” after the shop in London’s Regent Street. Furthermore, the Universal Exposition of 1900 could be considered as the climax or the high point in the evolution of Art Nouveau, in which this new modern style was represented in many mediums. It commonly functioned as a reaction against the cluttered designs and compositions of Victorian-era decorative art.
    As mentioned in the introduction, the new art movement has certain affinities with the Pre-Raphaelites. However, unlike the style of the Pre-Raphaelites Art Nouveau has distinctive characteristics itself by, for instance, using new materials or concentrating towards modernism instead of medieval or Renaissance arts. Nonetheless, Art Nouveau is not only influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painters but also by the Arts and Crafts movement and by British graphic artists of the 1880s. Hence, it combines the fine arts with decorative arts in designs inspired by nature. A well-known illustrator of the movement is Aubrey Beardsley. In his drawings and works of art, the curved lines have become the most recognizable feature of his and also have defined a profound characteristic of the Art Nouveau style itself. After all, the Pre-Raphaelite style was embodied above all in decorative arts. Nevertheless, historians are not entirely sure about the origins of Art Nouveau. Even though, they mostly agree on the influence of the English Arts and Crafts Movement as well as the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite, the style of Art Nouveau also adhered features of Oriental arts and Romanticism.
    The Liberty department store in London’s Regent Street was one of the places selling pieces of the Art Nouveau movement. Although the store itself has developed his own style, many other art movements have found their home at Liberty’s. As already mentioned, the company became associated with the new style, to the extent that in Italy, Art Nouveau became known as the Stile Liberty, after the London shop. The recognizable curves of Art Nouveau appear, to date, in the Liberty Style’s frequent use of the Celtic knot and organic forms.
    In conclusion, the Art Nouveau surely is an extraordinary style itself. It has emerged out of the different movements with a similar basis, namely opposing the Victorian art era and the eclectic historical styles. The Pre-Raphaelites as one of the first art groups breaking through the boundaries of Victorian standards have indisputable a huge influence on the Art Nouveau movement.

    Note: We agreed on a third study question written by me because I missed a few sessions, which I am still sorry about. However, I still onyl require 3 credits.

  37. Last Paper Response: What is the role of women in the poetry of D.G. Rossetti that we have read? What contrastive ideas of women can be found in “The Blessed Damozel” and “Jenny”, for example?

    The work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti was highly influenced by the revolutionary character that identifies the mood of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Throughout the dichotomy between earthly love and spiritual love, Rossetti created an erotic female icon which is the antecedent of the “Femme Fatale”, as it is recognized nowadays. This author created his own literary conception of woman beauty, which was affected by his own attitudes toward women. On this basis, he distanced himself from W.H Hunt and J. E Millais because of his creation of an innovative focus regarding female beauty. Worth of noting is his avocation for a new role of women in a Victorian patriarchal society, where women were trapped at home dominated by male control. Rossetti was one of the first authors who brought up the concept of “Fary Lady” both in art and literature; “The Blessed Damozel”, “Jenny” and “Lady Lilith” are the selected examples to analyze the role of women in D.G Dante’s artistic career.

    “The Blessed Damozel” (1850), is one of the most important poems of this author, which was published in the well-known Pre-Raphaelite journal “The Germ”. The dichotomy between the Earth and Heaven is presented along this dramatic monologue through a young and innocent love. The heavenly Damozel is depicted by the artist with 7 stars which adorn her hair: the seven stars of the constellation were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione in Greek mythology. This allusion to Greek mythology crates a virginal atmosphere in which our Damozel is surrounded, but with an aesthetic symbolism rather than with religious connotations. Rossetti lived in a constant dialogue between life and art, and his devotion to female goddess has to be understood as a form of prayer. Moreover, his fascination with the figure of Virgin Mary contributes to the elevation of the female figure to heaven, as it could be seen with the Blessed Damozel. This privileged position is quite unusual regarding women representation, however Rossetti appreciation and devotion of women beauty aims to present them as spiritual saviors.

    The contrastive approach between early religious poems such as “The Blessed Damozel” and later poems such as “Jenny” could be seen in Rossetti’s evolution throughout its artistic carrier. Instead of focus his attention in male’s salvation throughout woman’s love, he turned the man saving the figure of the fallen woman, but also the focus of his attention was those women beyond care and help. However, Rossetti created a new canon of beauty , he depicted women with long hair, elegant gestures, sturdy necks, heavy eyelids and pale but luminous skin, as it could be seen in the portray of “Lady Lilith”. On this basis, Rossetti challenged Victorian ideals of beauty and also his first thoughts regarding physically characterization, which illustrate woman as pale and tiny figures to represent their fragility.

    A point of importance is the dual iconographic representation between body and soul throughout the characterization of “Lady Lilith” and “Jenny” who “stand for the soul, and sin, while “The Blessed Damozel” stands for the virtuous soul”. The characterization of these New Women combines at the same time features such as deadly and seductive, as it was the case of “Jenny” a woman who worked as prostitute, and Lilith, who was represented as sexually aggressive and seductive in contrast to those women whose sexuality was based on male’s desire. Moreover, the socio-historical background of this “femme fatale” was framed by the Women’s Emancipation Movement in the Nineteen Century, thus Rossetti was able to represent this feminine power both psychically and mentally.

    Finally, special attention deserves the influence of Art Nouveau in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood that could be seen in Rossetti’s emphasis on women’s hair. Examining the following verses: “And her enchanted hair was the first gold- And still she sits young while the earth is old” which belong to a collection of sonnets named “Body’s Beauty”, it could be said that the hair is an important element of Lady Lilith’s personality; her blond and curly hair lighted Lady Lilith and her powerful charm. At the same time her luxurious hair makes her portrait a vivid image, offering an invitation to sin. This invitation is one of the main recognizable features of this “New Woman” during 19th Century.
    As a conclusion, it could be said that Rossetti achieved success by presenting one of the main psychological concerns of his time throughout his poetry and visual arts. This social conflict was linked with Woman’s Emancipation movement and their demands of independence, which terrified Victorian society. It is important to highlight Rossetti’s achievement of a new canon of female duty which challenged Victorian ideals.

    Works Cited:

    ” One Strangling Golden Hair”: Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Lady Lilith” by Virginia M. Allen

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