Dante Rossetti: re-envisioning desire in the domestic sphere of Victorian society

Watson, Allison
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti's romantic vision represented in his longer poems, such as "Jenny" and "The Blessed Damozel," spurred a vast amount of criticism with scholar who note the various themes of female sexuality. However, many of these analyses neglect prevalent themes such as sexuality, religious allusions, and the male-female relationship within the domestic space. Rossetti's The House of Life continually presents these themes; however, many non-anthologized sonnets are not critically studied by scholars. Rossetti both challenges and propels Victorian ideals through the portrayal women and their relationships with men within the domestic space. In my thesis I will discuss the ways in which Victorian legal reforms and Rossetti's revisionist ideas help to shape the role of women by giving them agency within his verse. While critics have looked at the presence of prostitution in Rossetti's longer poems, a gap remains in terms of his contribution to feminist rhetoric. In this full sonnet sequence Rossetti, quite literally, works to embody a relationship between a man and a woman. Each sonnet shows the evolution of the minds and bodies of the young lovers as their love blossoms, grows, and extends beyond the physical world. These revelations occur in conjunction with one another and build upon themes of daily life. In this way, Rossetti works to incorporate Victorian values of ennobling daily life within the domestic space and presents a new vision of the domestic sphere that celebrates the physicality and spirituality of sexual desire as an integral part of love in marriage as long as this new-found female sexuality occurs within the private space.

English (Literature), English, Literature, Dante Rossetti, Gender, Poetry, Religion, Sexuality, The House of Life