Little lambs, linnets and babes in the snow: messages of kindness and caution in Christina Rossetti's _Sing-Song_ and _Speaking Likenesses_

Date
2011-01-01
Authors
Perez, Sara
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Kathleen Hickok
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Altmetrics
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English
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English
Abstract

In this study of Christina Rossetti's two books for children, Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book (1872) and Speaking Likenesses (1875), I use a feminist theoretical lens to examine the implicit directions given to young girls about how to be an appropriate girl, woman, mother, and citizen of the British Empire in the 19th century. In many ways, the poems and stories in these two books contain a subtle set of rules regarding behavior for the implied audience, which is largely middle-class, white, and Christian. These works for children written by Christina Rossetti reflect an interesting middle place between a feminist viewpoint and an insistence on abiding by a patriarchal set of rules. She seems to find a place that is neither adversarial to the existing patriarchal structures nor entirely satisfied by living within it. Both books celebrate the safety and love found in the mother-child relationship and expand that to portray the extended community of female care-givers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, as nearly utopian. Sing-Song and Speaking Likenesses contain pieces which portray a respite from the temptations and dangers of the larger world in the female sphere of the nursery. Of particular interest in these two texts is the inclusion of a cautionary note on the fallen woman and the dangers of sensuality and promiscuity.

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