decorated initial 'T' s we have seen, Christina Rossetti's preface to the Monna Innominata sonnets discusses the specifically literary culture from which the sonnets emerge. In doing so, it accomplishes a number of complex effects. At one level it insists upon a very precise place in literary history for the work that follows it. The preface invokes an historically distant tradition, thus evoking for the reader a powerful sense of estrangement from some of the conventions and emotional components of that tradition. Yet the sense of estrangement generated by the preface also causes us to suspend whatever proclivities we might feel to disbelieve and to criticize; the preface in this way encourages feelings of sympathy and even imaginative identity with [163/164] the speaker. Paradoxically, therefore, through the very self-conscious artificiality of the work in which she figures, the speaker's tone of sincerity is reinforced. The preface in these ways thrusts upon the reader an awareness (of which we are reminded by the Dantean and Petrarchan epigraphs to each sonnet in the sequence) that the author is writing in a parodic literary mode. Because of the interaction within the sequence between originality and imitation (or appropriation), the reader is constantly moving between complex levels of response, including an emotional level elicited by the "sincere" voice of the melancholy or hopeful or ascetically resigned speaker, and a more detached but still emotionally fraught literary-historical level evoked by the poem's preface, with its biblical, Dantean, and Petrarchan allusions. These allusions reinforce our feelings of estrangement, our suspension of disbelief, and hence our emotional responses at the first level. But at the same time the preface and the allusions remind us that we are engaged with a work of art in which a fictionalized speaker (as in Dante and Petrarch) creates a visionary reality (largely distant from any true events) in order to generate specific kinds of emotional and spiritual responses that satisfy specific, even primal, needs. In short, the work's effectiveness is enhanced by its self-conscious historicity and the awareness it evokes of its own artifices. Its power is also reinforced and extended (as usually is the case in such allusive poems) by the emotional and spiritual weight brought to it by the literary works it invokes as contexts. These authenticate the Monna Innominata, bringing to bear upon the reader's responses his or her memories of a previous set of related literary experiences.

The cultural and specifically literary traditions upon which Rossetti's art depend are enormously complex. The history of European literature is often the history of attempts to reconcile eros and agapé. For Dante and Petrarch, clearly, both kinds of love are compatible and interdependent. Both, too, are internal, matters for the imagination. The inherent dangers of their attempted reconciliation, however, are ones that Christina Rossetti does not easily escape. As Jean Hagstrum. has observed in this regard, "One of the mischiefs of love is that, while turning us to another person, it can also turn the gaze inward and lead to dangerous self-preoccupation. Freud saw that such preoccupation could produce what he called 'the narcissistic overestimation of subjective mental processes' [in 'The Uncanny,' 1919].... Apparently a nexus exists between love in any form and imagination, whose tendency is to lead away from life" (Sex and Sensibility, 18). Moreover, the dangers of erotic solipsism are magnified by the "ambiguity of the entire Judeo-Christian heritage" in its attitudes toward love: [164/165]

On the side of positive encouragement, the great tradition made marriage a sacrament, proclaimed that God was love, required in its two greatest commandments (on which hang all the law and the prophets) both love of God and love of man, made love between man and woman the most important type for the relations of God and Israel, Christ and the Church, made marriage the metaphor for the consummation of all things, and sought to make the blessed and chosen community a fraternity of love and service.... The whole matter of how deeply religion affected social behavior and indeed the mind of the artist at the moment of creation is a vexed one. [20]

The vexations for the student of European love poetry culminate with the tradition initiated by the troubadours, Dante, and Petrarch, within which Christina Rossetti locates the Monna Innominata

Rossetti's impulse to reconcile eros and agapé has its roots in southern European literature of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, in the Augustinian Platonism that preceded it, and in the many varieties of Neoplatonisin that followed it. Murray Krieger quite rightly acknowledges that "the Petrarchan mode itself, with its sources in Courtly Love, serves to institutionalize a symbolic [literary] form consecrated to the transformation of earthly love to spiritual." In the mythology which that form propagates, "the [beloved], both agent and object of transformation, becomes ritualized beyond [his or her] historical reality. As Idolatry merges with typology, the metaphorical play on the divine-human paradox of Christianity fuses the [beloved] into an eschatological figure" (Krieger, Classic Vision, 56). Such is exactly the process attempted in the visionary métier of the Monna Innominata sequence. Yet it first appeared among the late troubadours to whom Christina Rossetti alludes in her preface to the Monna Innominata, crystallizing most clearly, perhaps, in the works of Arnaut Daniel. As Dante himself acknowledges in canto twenty-six of the Purgatorio, Arnaut was the most important precursor of the system of attitudes toward love that Dante reshaped (and that the Rossettis perpetuated in their work). Dante praises Arnaut as the greatest among previous vernacular poets. Moreover, as L. T Topsfield — the most helpful among the many recent commentators on troubadour tradition — observes, "the ... rules which apply to Dante's Divine Comedy can also be used for some poems by Arnaut Daniel in which we can see a literal sense, and a moral and Christian sense" (Topsfield, Troubadours and Love, 214. Hereafter cited as Topsfield.)

Indeed, because there are specific correspondences between Arnaut's poetry and basic elements of the Monna Innominata, one is led to speculate [165/166] that Christina Rossetti's introduction to the troubadour poet through Dante had led her to read him. For within the larger tradition that attempts to reconcile eros and agapé, we find in Arnaut's lyrics the same psychopathology of erotic solipsism, the same expected longing for the physical closeness of the beloved (MI 2), the same faith in the Paradisal. reunion of lovers (MI 7 and 10), and even the same concern with slanderers; (MI 11) (Topsfield, 216). Like Christina Rossetti's "poetess," and Re Dante and Petrarch before her, Arnaut the poet practices "in his attempt at conscious self-absorption in the courtly ethic ... a form of self-forgetfulness, the s'oblidar of earlier troubadours. He turns his love inward upon itself and shrinks from the outward sensual expression of love" (Topsfield, 204). Yet like the speaker in the first two Monna Innominata sonnets, he "longs for the closeness of his beloved's physical reality" (Topsfield, 216). He feels caught between the spirit and the flesh, and in attempting to reconcile eros and agapé, "refers explicitly to ... the New and Old Testaments! He believes his soul will "have double joy in Paradise, if one can enter there through loving well." Moreover, his adherence to Fin 'Amors involves the renunciation of earthly fulfillment and "raises him to the moment of ultimate happiness, the summum bonum or mielhs of the early troubadours, in which moral, spiritual and Christian doubts are resolved, and the lover can hope for happiness in Paradise" (Topsfield, 217). Indeed, "behind his poetry there is ... the basic Augustinian debate of the struggle between carnal desire of the body and the soul's desire for God. [Ultimately] Arnaut affirms the excellence of Fin 'Amors by equating it with love of God" (Topsfield, 216).

Most of these elements are expanded upon, indeed mythologized, by Dante and, to a lesser extent, by Petrarch. But with Arnaut, at least from Dante's view, they crystallized in their purest form, and it is inevitable that the allusion to Arnaut appears in the Purgatorio, for purgatory is in Dante's cosmology the special habitation of Provençal poet-lovers and the dolce still nuovo poets; for Maria Rossetti's useful introductory discussion of the Purgatario in these terms, see A Shadow of Dante, 107-82.Not surprisingly, nine of the fourteen Dantean epigraphs to the Monna Innominata, sonnets are taken from the Purgatorio. These draw attention not only to the purgatorial psychic effects of love upon the speaker in the poem, but also to the self-conscious concern in both Rossetti and Dante with the role of "song" in transforming eros into agapé and thus in achieving salvation (MI 1, 4, 14). Significantly, the Purgatorio begins, "I will sing of that second realm where the human spirit is purged, and becomes fit to ascend to heaven" (Singleton, Purgatorio, 1:3.). For Rossetti's speaker, as for Dante, the very experience of singing, of generating in poetry a vision of love's development, becomes a melancholy mode of purification, [166/167] enforcing upon her the suffering that accompanies unfulfilled earthly passion, renunciation, and an awareness of mutability. In short, the female troubadour Christina Rossetti envisions in her preface-an imaginative counterpart of Arnaut Daniel — purges her passion and purifies her soul through her poetry, just as Rossetti perceived Dante to have done.

The general movement of the sonnet sequence is clear. On its most basic level it begins with an exclusive focus on eros and the desire for physical union with the beloved. But the speaker's desire for earthly love gives way to spiritual aspirations that subsume eros, but which her beloved apparently does not share. Thus, while contemplating the prospect of love's apotheosis through death and transcendence, and while suppressing her yearning for a full sensory apprehension and exploration of passion, the speaker exposes her fears of betrayal and of mutability. These fears culminate in a complete this-worldly renunciation of her beloved. Repressive and self-chastening impulses come to dominate her. Like Arnaut, she weeps and sings as she goes, enduring the fire that purifies (Purgatorio 26). Shortly, the speaker succumbs to a desire for death that sustains her because it promises an end to the emotional turmoil she suffers as well as a translation to "the happy land" where "all is love" and where passion is disencumbered of its painful earthly complications and disappointments. In the speaker's vision of heaven, eros is transmuted into agapé.

As I suggest above, this movement attempts to imitate what Rossetti perceived as the Dantean pattern of spiritual development through love. Thus, for her the work simultaneously fulfills sincere and parodic impulses, just as Dante's poetry does. Charles Singleton has observed that Dante repeatedly "concern[s] himself with the literary tradition of courtly love." Significantly, Christina Rossetti accepts and imitates Dantean tradition rather than attempting to supersede or transform it as her brother does, and as Dante transformed the tradition he absorbed. (Such radical conservatism, however, can be seen as equally avant-garde in the contexts of Victorian topical literature, sentimental poetry, or even Spasmodicism.) Singleton explains that although Dante "awarded the crown of excellence" to Arnaut Daniel in dealing with venus, or the spark of earthly passion, he acknowledged that he himself was supreme in compositions that must be classified "beyond (and above) the poetry of courtly love." Ultimately, in the Divine Comedy, "Dante is a poet of rectitudo, his concern is with directio voluntatis," that is, directing the will toward transcendence, the transformation of eros into agapé. Indeed, this concern developed into his "program ... his working principle," and it unifies the movement of his major works, Singleton persuasively claims, from the Vita Nuova through [167/168] the Divine Comedy ("Dante" 44, 45, 49). Singleton expands upon his thesis in a way that is relevant to any serious discussion of the Monna Innominata:

With the Vita Nuova (which makes its beginning with the courtly tradition, so that it can clearly and explicitly register the manner and degree in which it leaves that tradition behind), Beatrice becomes the vehicle, the God-given means, by which the will of the poet is directed to God. And with the Vita Nuova, in this sense, Dante becomes the poet of directio voluntatis and remains such a poet through the fragmentary Convivio, and then, triumphantly and completely, in the Commedia. And all the while . . . Dante can play, sometimes, at courtly love.... Dante ... it was who showed us, excelling as he did in the mode of directio voluntatis ... that courtly love can be perfected beyond itself — without being abolished. [53-54; compare Singleton's remarks.]

In the Monna Innominata we discover in highly compressed form the speaker's derivative program involving not only the transvaluation of passion through song, but also the suppression of its erotic elements. But that program for the speaker eventually founders and is overwhelmed by fears of failure and mutability

Still, the experience of imaginatively embedding such a speaker in such a literary tradition proves salutary for the poet behind the speaker, as it did for Dante. Throughout the Divine Comedy Dante represents himself as the supreme visionary actively teaming in the course of his poetic production. Christina Rossetti appears in such a role only in her preface to the Monna Innominata, having learned from the precursors she cites. But in both cases the authors' personae — Dante's self-depiction and Rossetti's speaker — are to an extent perfected. Through the painful ordeals they experience, their authors (and audiences, presumably) gain spiritual direction and an awareness of artistic excellence, learning from the ideals they poetically describe as well as from the failures of such ideals. On Dante's epic scale in the Divine Comedy, of course, both the poet and the reader gain spiritual direction from many speakers. Especially in the Purgatorio, on which Christina Rossetti focuses in her epigraphs, the examples of misguided lovers, and specifically lover-poets, perfect Dante's understanding of love as the guiding force and principle of the universe. A passage from Purgatorio 17 is crucial in understanding how the poet's depiction of "failed" poet-lovers not only extends tradition but serves to purge the poet (through his sympathies for those he treats) and to educate him. In this passage Virgil instructs Dante, just as, by extension, Dante has instructed Christina Rossetti, and as her work will guide future poets writing of love: [168/19]

"Neither Creator nor a creature ever,
  Son," he began, "was destitute of love
  Natural or spiritual; and thou knowest it.
The natural was ever without error;
  But err the other may by evil object,
  Or by too much, or by too little vigour.
While in the first it well directed is,
  And in the second moderates itself,

  It cannot be the cause of sinful pleasure;
But when to ill it turns, and, with more care
  Or lesser than it ought, runs after God,
  'Gainst the Creator works His own creation.
Hence thou mayst comprehend that love must be
  The seed within yourselves of every virtue
  And every act that merits punishment." [trans. Cayley, 17, B. 91-105; quoted in A Shadow of Dante, 160.]

Thus, in Dante and in Rossetti the central concern is directio voluntatis, and their works constitute an exercise in learning to redirect the passions by means of imaginatively viewing the successes and failures of lovers, poets, and poet-lovers. In this way, the aestheticization of passion becomes the most accessible pathway to salvation, one which, Rossetti believes, must be reopened for her culture by work "directed to that which is true and right" like her own.

Although Christina Rossetti's most important use of Dante, then, appears in her speaker's failed reenactment in the Monna Innominata of his program for simultaneous aesthetic and spiritual purification, other significant thematic echoes proliferate. I have already mentioned the sanction for renouncing the beloved, which appears in Purgatorio 15 and which shapes Rossetti's seventh sonnet. But also in the Divine Comedywe find the pervasive atmosphere of solipsism that distinguishes Arnaut's poetry as well as Dante's. Christina Rossetti chooses from Purgatorio 2 an epigraph for sonnet 12 that suggests the visionary quality of the described experience throughout her sequence: "Love, that discourses in my mind." Further, Rossetti's twelfth and thirteenth sonnets irresistibly suggest the vanitas mundi theme that often dominates her other works and that punctuates the Purgatorio (see especially Purgatorio 11 and 12).

More specifically, in Purgatorio 17 Dante alludes to the book of Esther in a visionary context whose power may well have inspired Rossetti's eighth sonnet. Although it reinforces the Monna Innominata's motif of self-sacrifice for the good of the beloved, this sonnet's appearance in the [169/170] sequence is rather puzzling because it constitutes a lengthy digressive allusion involving a biblical theme that at first appears to be relevant only on the most general level to the experience of the speaker in the sonnets.

This difficulty can, however, be explained by the crucial visionary images that open Purgatorio 17 and by the brief but very important theory of imagination expressed in the canto's first thirty-three lines. In these fines Dante directly addresses the faculty within his mind that generates images without external stimulation.

O imagination, that do sometimes so snatch us from outward things that we give no heed, though a thousand trumpets sound around us, who moves you if the sense affords you naught? A light moves you which takes form in heaven, of itself, or by a will that downward guides it.

Of her impious deed who changed her form into the bird that most delights to sing, the impress appeared in my imagination, and at this my mind was so restrained within itself, that from outside came naught that was then received by it. Then rained down within the high fantasy one crucified, scornful and fierce in his mien, and so was he dying. Round about him were the great Ahasuerus, Esther his wife, and the just Mordecai who was in speech and deed so blameless. And ... this imagination burst of itself, like a bubble. [2:379-80]

This passage would have attracted Rossetti's attention because of her interests not only in Dante but also in the Bible, Keats, and the operations of the poetic imagination. These converge here in suggestive ways. The first literary allusion in this passage is to the myth of Philomel, who in Ovid's Metamorphoses is transformed into a nightingale. In Keats's famous ode "the bird that most delights to sing" becomes a symbol of the poetic imagination. The second allusion is to Esther. And immediately following the quoted text is a reference to the Aeneid. The allusive technique in the passage may well have seemed to Rossetti an exemplary instance of her own methodology in the Monna Innominata, which I have described as bricolage. More significantly, the brief theory of imagination Dante states here would have appealed to Rossetti as a simple way of solving the central problem of Keats's poetry, which finds one of its clearest expressions in his "Ode to a Nightingale" — the apparent impossibility of reconciling the escapist tendencies of the imagination with its utilitarian potential, indeed, with the potential of the poet to become a "physician to all men" rather than a mere visionary or "dreamer." This solution would have been unavailable to Keats as a non-Christian, but it was inescapable for [170/171] Rossetti as a Christian Platonist in the tradition of Dante. According to Dante, in this passage from Purgatorio 17, poetic images "descend into the mind directly from God, whose will directs them downward." This occurrence is to be distinguished from the mnemonic operation of the imagination, which depends exclusively upon previously assimilated external stimuli (see Singleton, Purgatorio, 2:378-81.) The extended implications of this notion for Rossetti's solipsist "poetess" and devout lover in the Monna Innominata are crucial: passionate impulses and the visionary experience of love are not only sanctioned by God, but also "willed" by him in order ultimately to direct the lover to pursue an ideal of Love, agapé, that transcends eros. The poet-lover eventually thus gains Love by desiring and then renouncing love. But to do so, the poet-lover, like Dante, must first traverse purgatory He or she must imaginatively suffer and poetically express the pangs of unfulfilled love. Moreover, the poet behind this persona becomes a poet-prophet, generating an art that may, like Dante's, lead its audience toward salvation. Thus, for Christina Rossetti the story of Esther, the savior of her people, becomes, through its context and uses in Dante, a crucial touchstone for Rossetti's entire poetic enterprise.

In addition to the many Dantean resonances in the Monna Innominata, we find pervasive echoes of numerous images and motifs from Petrarch's Canzone, from which Christina Rossetti takes her second set of epigraphs. Significantly, Christina Rossetti eschewed the major stylistic techniques that Petrarch's most prominent imitators absorbed — Dante Rossetti among them. These, of course, included the use of elaborate conceits. In her style Christina was more austerely Dantean than Petrarchan. The speaker in the Monna Innominata is, like Petrarch's persona, a poet extremely self-conscious about the relations between love, song, the beloved's approval of her verses, and the promise of salvation through love and heavenly reunion with the beloved. The depiction of song (in Petrarch's thirty-seventh poem, for example) mediating between two lovers reminds us of the central concern in the two sonnets that frame the Monna Innominata sequence. Petrarch concludes his long poem with an address to personified "Song":

Song, if in that sweet place
Our lady you will see,
You think perhaps like me
That she will offer you her lovely hand
From which so far I stand.
Do not go near; kneeling respectfully,
Tell her: — I come as soon as can be done,
Either bare soul or man of flesh and bone. [Armi, Petrarch, 65]

But the compulsion to generate song, to poeticize love, to strive even for the "laurel" crown that is punningly identified with the beloved Laura, is ubiquitous in the Canzone. (See, for instance, poems 6, 23, 37, 60, 61, 70, 72, 73.) This is so despite the speaker's occasional lamentations over [171/172] his inability to versify (see poem 20). But even this lament, of course, reminds us of Christina Rossetti's sonnet 14.

Visible also in Petrarch's thirty-seventh poem are two motifs that Rossetti adapts and that appear repeatedly in the Canzone: the desire to touch the beloved's hand and the motif of the lovers' reunion in Paradise. These are seen also, for instance, in poems 58, 270, 275, and 278. Indeed, any full discussion of Petrarchan antecedents for elements in the Monna Innominata would be very long. More briefly, we must at least note Petrarch's repeated attempts to portray his first meeting with Laura (Can. 13, 20, 61; MI 2); his concern with attaining God's sanction for his love and salvation through it (Can. 4, 13, 15, 29, 59, 72, 277;.MI 5, 6, 8, 9, 13); the self-conscious renunciation of love's earthly pleasures (especially Can. 1, 13, 56; MI 5, 11); his desire for death as a comfort and release from the torments of unfulfilled passion in this world (Can. 8, 14, 18, 30, 36; MI 10, 11); the speaker's sense of profound inadequacy (Can. 20; MI 9, 12-14); his concern with the reputation that his behavior in love win yield (Can. 72; MI 11); the intense consciousness of mutability (Can. 12, 30, 32, 272; MI 10, 14); and finally, the profound melancholy elicited by a love that remains unfulfilled in this life (Can. 9, 10, 21; MI 14).

Such echoes of Petrarch, Dante's great emulator, interact with Christina Rossetti's biblical allusions, as well as with her uses of Dante and of troubadour motifs, to generate the complexly sincere and parodic quality of her poem. The Monna Innominata must therefore be seen finally as a highly intertextual work. The detached author displays herself on one level as a student of those tormenting but essential human yearnings for completion and fulfillment that are visible in the traditional quest to transform erotic into spiritual passion and thereby to transcend mortality. On another level she is a student of literary traditions that glorify, diffuse, and assuage those yearnings by making art of them.

Such traditions (especially that of the sonnet sequence)-having been virtually dormant in England since the early seventeenth century-were fervently revived not only by the Pre-Raphaelites, who used them uniquely, but also by many mainstream Victorian writers as well, for perhaps obvious reasons. On the one hand, of course, the renewal of interest in things medieval burgeoned during the nineteenth century in England, and the Victorian fascination with medieval romance, troubadour poetry, and Dantean tradition can be seen simply as one aspect of this phenomenon. On the other hand, the interest in medieval traditions of love literature clearly resulted from a peculiarly Victorian perception — one seen by Rossetti [172/173] as misguided and hypocritical — that the high Middle Ages was an era parallel to their own in its manner of reconciling the demands of the flesh with the aspirations of the spirit. For most canonical Victorian poets who dealt with the subject of love (except Swinburne), erotic passion had to be, in one way or another, made "respectable." The quest for purity and sanctity was, at least in art and social intercourse, an inescapable product of socialization, and it resulted in the compulsive evasion, suppression, or transposition of erotic desire into acceptable forms. Thus, for Victorian love poets the traditions of great medieval love poetry served an exemplary function, not just as fine art, but also as models of the necessary psychological process of suppression and rechannelling.

In this largely superficial way, then, Christina Rossetti's love poems resemble those of Arnold, Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and even Dante Rossetti, as well as the major relevant poems of Tennyson, including the Idylls of the King and In Memoriam. In Memoriam is an especially useful poem in comparing Christina Rossetti's uses of Dantean tradition to those of other mainstream Victorian poets. As early as 1909, T H. Warren made clear the extent of Dantean influences on Tennyson (Warren, "Tennyson and Dante."). The pervasiveness of Dantean tradition among Victorian intellectuals, poets, and religious thinkers in the nineteenth century is strikingly previewed in the undergraduate writings of Arthur Hallam, the most dazzling of the Cambridge Apostles in the 1830s and, of course, the single most important influence on Tennyson's poetry. Hallam's own attitudes toward the issue of love and literary treatments of it had an immeasurable impact upon young Tennyson, and those attitudes were derived in large part from his studies of medieval Italian literature: "His enthusiasm for Dante and to a lesser extent Petrarch he was able to communicate to Tennyson. For what there is in Tennyson's conception of love that is consciously Neoplatonic he absorbed in large measure from Hallam's energetic espousal of ... Italian Platonism" (Joseph, Tennysonian Love, 59.). In addition to writing his Dantean poem, "A Farewell to the South" (1828), Hallam also delivered a prizewinning declamation, "The Influence of Italian upon English Literature," in 1831. More significantly in the context of the present discussion, Hallam wrote "Remarks on Professor Rossetti's 'Disquisizioni Sullo Spirito Antipapale'" in response to Gabriele Rossetti's Analytic Commentary on the Divine Comedy, a volume that we might well expect Christina Rossetti to have read at some point.

Gerhard Joseph quite rightly suggests the influence of Hallam upon Tennyson's Christian idealism, and considering Gabriele Rossetti's influence upon Hallam, it is not surprising that we find in the latter's writings and in Tennyson's poetry an essentially Dantean interaction between eros and agapé similar to that which we discover throughout Christina Rossetti's love poems and paradigmatically in the Monna Innominata. Summarizing Hallam's conclusions to his remarks on Rossetti's "Disquisizioni" Joseph explains, "Hallam equates the emotion that Christian man lavishes upon God and upon His clearest surrogate on earth, woman.... It is on the base of such a perception of woman analogous to God that western man has erected a religion whose essence is an erotic relation to God." Thus, "Hallam insisted on the inseparability of true spiritual emotion and the language of eroticism in western civilization. He furthermore argued that as a result the ascent toward God would be facilitated by the presence of female influence or by the male's attribution of a polar femininity to the object of his apotheosis. In Memoriam, describes the transformation of Hallam into an analogue of Christ; to render this Hallam-Christ accessible, Tennyson eroticizes him, giving him female attriibutes" (62, 68).This development in In Memoriam can, of course, be seen as analogous to Dante's treatment of Beatrice and Petrarch's of Laura, which Christina Rossetti invokes in her preface to the Monna Innominata.

In her particular and highly self-conscious uses of this tradition that demands an apotheosis of the beloved, however, Christina Rossetti's procedure and achievement is in certain ways more complex than that which Hallam perceives in Dante or that Tennyson undertakes in In Memoriam. For, while retaining all of the effects accomplished by the presentation of a sincere speaker struggling between eros and agapé, Rossetti objectifies that speaker's experience and elaborately locates it in a special literary tradition, making of it an aesthetic object and ultimately creating a poem whose emotional power is superseded by its power as a stimulus for detached contemplation of both amatory and literary-historical issues.


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Last modified 24 June 2007