When approaching the lives and poetry of Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one immediately confronts the contrast between the devout religiosity of the former and the sensuality and spiritual doubts of the latter, yet they share what we may call a metaphysics of experience. Both poets place a lot of emphasis on spiritual meaning, but they realize that because human experience begins with matter, spirit must somehow be expressed through matter. Perhaps the main difference between the poets, therefore, is not the location of meaning, but the attitude of the speaker towards the fact that, no matter what our spiritual beliefs, matter must in a sense be prior in human experience. For Christina Rossetti, who in her intellectual and theological beliefs sees Earth as a mere shadow of Heaven, or even as a prison, the experiential priority of matter is to be lamented. Therefore, she tries to give an account of what presence spirit can have in experience through hope and through revelation. On the other hand, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who does not share his sister's contempt for the material world nor her firm belief in Christian doctrine finds worldly life at least occasionally satisfying. He does place a high value on spiritual meaning, however, and tries to provide an account of how this meaning can be accessible in human experience, but he is much more experimental in this attempt.

The Rossettis and the Metaphysics of Spiritual Experience


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Last modified 10 March 2007