in Chapter I, Section I of "Typological Interpretation in the Victorian Period," George P. Landow states that the Evangelical branch of English Protestantism sought to attain an emotional, imaginative connection with Christ. Such a connection allowed the believer to "recognize his own innate depravity and then both project himself imaginatively into his Saviour's agonies and feel their saving effect upon himself." The sympathetic projection of the reader onto a character in literature seems akin to that of believer onto the object of his belief in Evangelical practice. A desired end product, in both religious and literary sympathetic projection, is catharsis — transporting the reader or believer into a vicarious experience that then directs the emotions to attain a more pure truth.
Interestingly, the High Church Christina Rossetti, who was definitely not an Evangelical, laments her inability to forge such a rich experience with Christ in "Good Friday." She first sets up a double image that reflects the contradictions of her emotional limitations:
Am I a stone and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop
Thy blood's slow loss And yet not weep?
She then demonstrates (in both form and content) how her coldness separates her from the deep grief of biblical and cosmological forces:
Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in the starless sky,v A horror of great darkness at broad noon — I, only I.
The final stanza gives a hopeful foreshadowing of future emotional break-through. Rossetti elucidates the initial contradiction between sheep and rock by referencing two methods of representing Christ. He is present as a symbol — the shepherd of the flock — and a type — Moses, who made water spring from rock during the IsraelitesŐ journey out of Egypt.
Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more,
And smite a rock.
1. What are the differences between the symbol, shepherd, and the type, Moses?
2. One characteristic of a type is that it is less perfect than the antitype, or what it anticipates. How does Rossetti show that Christ is "greater than Moses?"
3. At the beginning of the poem, the speaker imaginatively positions herself as a spectator at the Crucifixion. The reader is also positioned there, seeing and feeling vicariously through the speaker. How is this imaginative projection different when it is construed in words rather than in images? Are words less effective in brining about an imaginative connection than images?
4. Is heightened realism, as stressed in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, necessary for adequate imaginative projection to occur?
- Christina Rossetti's Pre-Raphaelitism and Tractarianism
- Christina Rossetti and the Metaphysics of Spiritual Experience
- High Church Anglicanism
- Religion in England (sitemap)
Last modified 26 September 2007