By L. Palazzo

This quantity disputes the belief that Rossetti was once a follower of Keble and Pusey, and indicates how her dissatisfaction with the male-dominated name to celibacy led her to reject their notions of worldliness, and to shape a more in-depth bond with the actual global and the physique.

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She must not, however, be allowed to obscure the empowering figure of feminine wisdom, which gains strength in Rossetti’s theology as she begins to participate in work for and amongst women. Here feminist theology can help in our understanding of Rossetti’s work, by its reassertion of the spiritual authority of woman’s activity in all spheres through the authority and dignity of wisdom. 49 So rather than signal submission and inferiority, the domestic scene can be considered a sign of solidarity and hope for the future.

Suggestions of sin and evil lie exclusively in the goblins, and there is no threat whatsoever of punishment to any of the maidens should they look at them or eat their fruit; only a warning that ‘their evil gifts would harm us’ (12). The domestic life of the sisters is instead a development of Rossetti’s emerging wisdom figuration: the heritage of the younger sister in ‘The Lowest Room’, the location of a female spiritual home, and a source, through Lizzie, of spiritual and physical redemption.

In the context of Rossetti’s work at Highgate, the fall into prostitution is also to accept Victorian man’s valuation of the female self, to accept the moral stereotype imposed by a patriarchal society: angel or devil, ‘a cherub’s face, the rest a reptile’. Laura is also the dying woman of Rossetti’s illustrations in Keble’s Christian Year and the grieving Eve in ‘Shut Out’. 60 If woman’s suffering has its source in gender oppression by men, there is real difficulty in accepting the efficacy of a male saviour who would thus seem to be participating in such oppression.

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