Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)
31 Study Questions, Activities, and Resources
John Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes.”
Look at John Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes.” What influence do you think this poem had on Rossetti, especially with regard to style and imagery? See especially Stanza 30, Porphyro’s magical feast.
- What does the fruit symbolize”?
- What is significant about the fact that the goblin men only want to sell the fruit and not give it away?
- Compare and contrast the two sisters. How are they similar? Different?
- Describe the imagery in the scene of Laura and the goblin men.
- When can Laura no longer hear the goblins? Why can she no longer hear the cry?
- Compare Laura and Jeanie.
- Why does Laura escape a similar fate?
- Download Katja Brandt’s 2006 Ph.D. dissertation. Read pages 17 to 23 (“Psychosexual Readings of Goblin Market”) or pages 23 to 27 (“Feminist Readings”). Summarize the main points for and against EITHER the psychosexual readings or the feminist readings.
- This poem is often discussed in the context of the Victorian period and “the Woman Question.” Give an interpretation of this poem after reading the main biographical details about Rossetti, (whom the American poet Sara Teasdale characterized as “a born celibate”)—especially her piety, her relationship with her sister Maria, and the fact that she renounced two suitors at least in part because of her scruples about the quality of their religious faith.
- Discuss Christian symbolism in “Goblin Market,” especially eucharistic symbolism.
- Use a good glossary of literary terms to identify epic characteristics, then argue that “Goblin Market” is an epic in miniature or modified “epyllion”).
- Find autobiographical elements in the poem (e.g., her work at the Highgate Home for Fallen Women; her relationship with her sister Maria). You may also wish to consult Brandt’s thesis.
- Summarize the main findings in this essay on capitalist deception, especially in the food industry during the Victorian period:
- Listen to the 45-minute BBC “In Our Time” podcast on Christina Rossetti. The guest scholars give an excellent overview of Rossetti’s life and helpful context for “Goblin Market.”
- Listen to Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Mid-winter” set to music by Gustav Holst in 1906 (with lyrics).
- Read this excellent overview of the poem and its contexts. You will find it useful for any of the essay topics.
- Look at the painting by Christina’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, for which she served as the model. Try to find other Pre-Raphaelite paintings posted on the Internet with Rossetti as model.