Weekly Assignment #8

October 19, 2006 at 1:48 pm (General)

Please read the following works for next week’s discussion of D. G. Rossetti — we’ll be discussing the poetry on Tuesday and the criticism (and poetry) on Thursday:

  • “The Blessed Damozel”
  • “Jenny”
  • “The Ballad of Dead Ladies”
  • The House of Life (all the sonnets selected by your anthology)
  • “The Fleshly School of Poetry”
  • “The Stealthy School of Criticism”

And, of course, please post questions and answers as usual.



  1. Daniela Newland said,

    Was there a real-life counterpart in DGR’s life to Jenny?

  2. Holly Ellern said,

    What role does numerology play in “The Blessed Damosel” and how does the number symbolism contribute to the poem’s meaning?
    I’ll take Daniela’s question!

  3. Eric Gerson said,

    Is there a point to the “House of Life” sonnet sequence, that is, is the sequence supposed to be novelistic with a certain plot that each successive sonnet builds to, or are they a random assortment of discussions about women and God?

  4. Chris Nelson said,

    Was it common to write criticism under a pseudonym, as Robert Buchanan did, when attacking an artist or work during the Victorian period?

  5. Meredith Willis said,

    This question is rather general and might be answered in class, but anyway…
    What was the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood? I’m pretty much asking for some basic information because I’ve heard this term before but never knew who it referred to, what it meant, why it was called this, etc.

  6. Daniela Newland said,

    Calling Meredith’s question…

  7. Laura Robinson said,

    What point was Villon and/or Rossetti working to make in “The Ballad of Dead Ladies,” and could it be as simple as noting the mere absence of the physical presence of these notable women in contemporary society?

  8. Laura Robinson said,

    I’ll take Eric’s question.

  9. Susanna Branyon said,

    I hate to ask the same question I asked last week, but the introduction to D.G. Rossetti and the Biblical imagery in his poems have me interested: What were DGR’s religious convictions?

  10. Josh Gane said,

    Does Rossetti have common themes, styles etc. in this group of poems? What are they and what can you discern from them?

  11. Matt Simmons said,

    Was Rossetti given the same regard for his visual art as for his poetry, or was he seen as an artist in one form and a dillettante in the other?

  12. Eric G said,

    I’ll take Matt’s question.

  13. Jake Burnett said,

    I’ll take Laura’s question.

  14. Jake Burnett said,

    How does D.G. Rossetti’s visual aesthetic influence his poetic aesthetic and vice versa, particularly in a poem like “Blessed Damozel”?

  15. Chris Nelson said,

    I’ll take Suzanna’s question.

  16. Susanna Branyon said,

    I’ll take Jake’s question.

  17. Aaron M. Bobick said,

    I’m lost as to what the reference is at the end of 5. Heart’s Hope:
    Yea, in God’s name, and Love’s, and thine, would I
    Draw from one loving heart such evidence
    As to all hearts all things shall signify;
    Tender as dawn’s first hill-fire, and intense
    As instantaneous penetrating sense,
    In Spring’s birth-hour, of other Springs gone by.

  18. Eric G said,

    Rosetti’s paintings and his poetry are related, so much so that “analyzing Rossetti’s poetry in terms of his paintings has become so mechanically commonplace it is easy to misjudge its critical usefulness” (Stein 775). Stein further asserts that most of Rossetti’s life he considered himself a painter, and poetry was merely “an avocation, a pleasant pasttime” (776). Rossetti’s poetry contains obvious painting references, particularly “The Portrait,” a poem about an artist (the speaker) trying to capture the beauty of his lover’s soul on canvas (Stein 776). Such poems by Rossetti do not only describe making a painting through poetry, but also “they compare the making of a painting to the making of a poem” (Stein 777).
    Stein, Richard L. “Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Painting and the Problem of Poetic Form.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 10.4 (Autumn 1970): 775-92.

  19. Holly Ellern said,

    From what I read in _Rosetti and the Fair Lady_ by David Sonstroem, Rosetti wrote and revised “Jenny” over a period of several years. There are many women he knew during that time, according to Sonstroem, that could have provided the inspiration for Jenny. One was a woman named Annie Miller, a “beautiful, uncultivated girl” (61) who modeled for the image of a prostitute in Holman Hunt’s painting, _The Awakening Conscience_. In the painting, the prostitute is apparently “undergoing an identity crisis in the lap of her lover” (61)–a similar image to what we see in “Jenny.” Miller and Hunt later became engaged, and Hunt encouraged a friendship between Miller and Rosetti while he was out of town, thinking there could be no harm in it. However, after a few months, it was rumored that Miller and Rosetti were having an affair, which Rosetti never denied. Hunt, of course, was devastated.
    Probably the most likely inspiration for “Jenny” is Fanny Cornforth, whom Rosetti met at a fireworks display at Old Surrey Gardens. Evidently, he and three other artists “accidentally” disturbed her hair so it fell out of place. After apologizing, Rosetti asked her to model at his studio.
    William Rosetti says of Cornforth that she was “pre-eminently fine…with the most lovely blonde hair” but that she “had not charm of breeding, education, or intellect” (63). D. G. Rosetti often associated her with animals, rather than angels like he did with other women he knew. He even went so far as to nickname her “The Elephant.” What a self-esteem builder! She was a prostitute before Rosetti knew her and also during their relationship (she was his mistress) which lasted until his death 25 years later.
    Evidently, Cornforth had a very bad reputation in society, not only as a prostitute, but also because she was a thief. She stole several things from Rosetti during the years of their relationship. Rosetti was well aware that she was doing this, but would never admit it to anyone else. When friends would bring up that she was stealing things from his house, he denied it and would accuse them of “abusing him” (65).
    According to Sonstroem, “An acquaintance of Rosetti believed [Cornforth] to be the inspiration for “Jenny,” which Rosetti did revise and enlarge upon meeting her” (64). She was the model for several of his paintaings, including _Bocca Baciata_ (1859), portrait (1862), _Blue Bower_ (1865), and _Lady with a Fan_ (1870).
    Sonstroem, David. _Rosetti and the Fair Lady_. Middletown: Wesleyan U Press, 1970.

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