Feminist Fridays: Christina Rossetti

Welcome to a new feature I’m trying out called Feminist Fridays, a weekly(wish) celebration of feminist texts, writers, and ideas. Studying English literature has made me realize how easy it is to get caught up in the male-dominated Western canon and completely miss the amazing work done by brilliant women over the years. Today I’ll be discussing Christina Rossetti, a Victorian poet who fought back against the sexist poetic tradition of the time.

Christina Rossetti (1830-94) was a British Pre-Raphaelite poet who was born and passed away in London, England. She was highly educated in classics at home and was largely influenced by Petrarch and the Italian poetic tradition, which is particularly clear in her sonnets. Although she had several relationships and proposals over her lifetime, she never actually married. Her three siblings all became successful writers as well, yet she is most associated with her brother Dante Gabriel (DG) Rossetti, a famous poet and painter.

One of Christina’s most remarkable poems is “Goblin Market,” published in the collection Goblin Market and Other Poems in 1862. Although sometimes viewed as a fantastical poem for children, “Goblin Market” is actually about the brutal rape of sisters Laura and Lizzie by bestial “goblin men.” Although Laura gives into temptation and becomes a “fallen woman” by sucking on the goblins’ fruit, Lizzie ultimately comes to her sister’s rescue by valiantly resisting their forced feeding.

“Lie close,” Laura said, 
Pricking up her golden head: 
“We must not look at goblin men, 
We must not buy their fruits: 
Who knows upon what soil they fed 
Their hungry thirsty roots?” 
“Come buy,” call the goblins 
Hobbling down the glen. 
Not only does this poem discuss the plight of the fallen woman in Victorian society, but it also demonstrates how difficult it was for women in general to be active members in the economic sphere. The poem itself is Christina’s way of participating in the economy, thereby carving out a place for herself in this male-dominated environment.
Christina Rossetti is one of the many women who advocated for more rights and opportunities for women in the nineteenth century when the bounds of traditional gender roles were stifling. I admire her way with words, her dedication to education, and her thoughtful insight into the lives and challenges of her female peers. She is a feminist light at a time that was darkened by sexism, inequality, and cruelty towards women in Victorian society.
Further reading: Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti; The Culture of Christina Rossetti: Female Poetics and Victorian Contexts edited by Mary Arseneau

Have you read anything by Christina Rossetti before? What do you think of this new feature? Any suggestions for another week’s topic? Let me know in the comments section below!




14 thoughts on “Feminist Fridays: Christina Rossetti

  1. I really loved this post, and I’m looking forward to the next ones! Your timing was great, too – we’re currently reading A Room of One’s Own in my English Contemporary Culture class, and the professor has mentioned Christina Rossetti a few times already, since Woolf does as well. ❤


  2. This is such a cool post; I love this idea.

    This makes me want to read Christina Rosetti even more! Have you read S. Jae Jones’ Wintersong? Apparently it’s heavily inspired by Goblin Market!


  3. I absolutely love this new feature Holly! Can’t wait to read more posts 😀 Sadly I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of Christina Rossetti? But that may be because I grew up in The Netherlands. She sounds really interesting though! Thank you for talking about her 🙂


  4. WHOA. WHOA. I LOVE YOU TO I N F IN ITY AND BACK FOR INTRODUCING THIS FEATURE. I’ve never heard of Christina Rosetti, so thank you so much for introducing her works to me. The poem sounds deep, I think I will have to read it soon! Cheers!


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