Note 56, Chapter 5 of the author's Christina Rossetti in Context which the University of North Carolina Press published in 1988. It appears in the Victorian web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.
So far, the most thorough — but still inadequate — readings of the Monna Innominata appear in Rees (Poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 152-64, 169-75) and in Wenger ("Influence of the Bible"). Rees very usefully focuses her remarks on the formal achievements of the series, placing Rossetti's sonnets careftffly in the context of English developments in the love sonnet tradition from Sidney through Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Wenger selectively identifies and briefly discusses biblical allusions in Rossetti's sonnets. Both critics make significant advances in the criticism of Rossetti to the extent that they eschew reductive autobiographical readings of these poems: "[T]o read the fourteen poems principally for biographical illumination, as has usually been done, is to fail to appreciate the author's understanding of the soul in conflict and to overlook her creative ability to translate personal experience into timeless and universal art" (Wenger, "Influence of the Bible" 15). Bellas, in his summary treatment of the sonnets, also rejects biographical readings (Christina Rossetti, 71). Critics who have insisted on mining the sonnets for biographical insights include Thomas (Christina Georgina Rossetti, 7076), Zaturenska (Christina Rossetti, 155-63), Packer (Christina Rossetti, 224-32, 255-57), and Battiscombe (Christina Rossetti, 132-33) — the last despite her earlier reference to an unpublished letter of 28 April 1894, written by Christina Rossetti to William Michael Rossetti, in which she protests forcefiffly against "imaginative" readers construing her poems as "love personals" (Christina Rossetti, 54). [214/215]
Last modified 24 June 2007