CHRISTINA ROSSETTI QUESTIONS FOR E335 VICTORIAN LITERATURE
Assigned: Christina Rossetti. "Song -- She sat . . ." (1460-61); "Song -- When I am dead" (1461); "After Death" (1461); "Dead before Death" (1462); "Cobwebs" (1462); "A Triad" (1462-63); "In an Artist's Studio" (1463); "A Birthday" (1463); "An Apple Gathering" (1464); "Winter My Secret" (1464-65); "Uphill" (1465); "Goblin Market" (1466-78); "No Thank You, John" (1478); "Promises Like Pie-Crusts" (1479); "In Progress" (1479); "A Life's Parallels" (1480); "Sonnet 17" (1480); "Cardinal Newman" (1480-81); "Sleeping at Last" (1481).
"Song (I): She Sat and Sang Alway"
1. What is the value of memory and hope in this poem? What changes have they wrought, if any, in this poem's speaker? From what force has the speaker been released?
2. How is this poem concerned with the limitations of expression? How are the speaker's emotions resolved or dealt with, if they in fact are dealt with?
"Song (II): "When I am Dead, My Dearest"
3. What is the point of the speaker's projecting consciousness beyond death?
4. How are remembrance and forgetting similar in their effect?
5. Is Nature present in this poem? If so, what role does it play?
6. What perspective does this poem afford the speaker? In what sense does the speaker gain release from forces restricting her?
"Dead before Death"
7. What situation does this poem describe -- what is "dying," and what has been lost already?
8. What is the "land neither night nor day"? Is nature mimetic of the speaker's state of mind? Explain.
9. How does this poem explore love as a central aim of life, and yet as a prime source of frustration? What is responsible for the frustration?
10. What kinds of love does the poem deal with? In what sense is the poem about the "love" that inheres to different kinds of relationships?
"In an Artist's Studio"
11. What reflections does this poem make about the way Pre-Raphaelite art represents women?
12. How is the woman referred to in Christina Rossetti's poem transformed from her ordinary self, and to what end?
13. What relationship does the poem posit between love and birthdays? How, that is, can love come to one "like a birthday"?
14. What is the relationship between the first stanza (with its similes) and the second stanza?
15. Christina Rossetti's poetry often deals with the transfigurative effects of a moment -- how is this poem a good example of that concern?
"An Apple Gathering"
16. How is an apple gathering a metaphor of something larger -- namely a relationship? What does the poem imply about the staying power of love?
"Winter My Secret"
17. What is the benefit to be gained from keeping a secret? How does the speaker treat the imagined addressee in this poem?
18. What purpose do the references to the seasons serve?
19. How is this poem about expression and concealment? What sorts of expression are alluded to?
20. What journey does this poem refer to? What is the speaker's attitude towards the journey?
21. The poem takes a question-and-answer format. In what way do the questions change? In what way do the responses change? Explain.
22. How does this poem remind you of a Grimm's fairy tale?
23. How much of the action and "world" of this poem seems deliberately vague? Where are the girls' parents? How old are Lizzie and Laura? What is the season? Where does the action occur?
24. How does Laura buy the fruit, and why does she pine away?
25. What is the relationship between Laura and Lizzie?
26. How are expression and repression related in this poem? What cures Laura? What restraint must both girls eventually accept?
"No Thank You, John"
27. How does this poem construct an unattractively "male" perspective on male/female relations, and how does the female speaker counter that perspective?
28. How does this poem differentiate between friendship and love?
"Promises Like Pie-Crusts"
29. How are promises like pie-crusts?
30. What is the connection in this poem between friendship and freedom of expression? How does Rossetti imply that intimate relationships restrict such expression?
31. What has changed in the speaker? Why does she expect some kind of transfiguring event to happen?
"A Life's Parallels"
32. How does this poem deal with the potential powers of memory? This is a subject we were concerned with in our discussions of romantic poetry, so it would be worthwhile to make some connections between romantic emphasis on memory and Rossetti's interest in it.
33. How does this poem explore the need to make sense of one's life? What does it say about the problem of desire?
From Later Life
34. What does the speaker reveal, and what does she conceal? What is her "lot," as she describes it?
35. In what sense is this poem concerned (as "Life's Parallels" is) with the need to draw upon memory and render one's own life intelligible?
36. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar write about Christina Rossetti's "aesthetics of deferral and renunciation." How does this late poem comment on that approach to poetry and, more broadly, to the restrictive life situations her poems often explore?
37. To what extent does Christina Rossetti (or the speaker) identify with the passionate way Cardinal Newman lived his life?
"Sleeping at Last"
38. Compare this poem to earlier poems in which Christina Rossetti concerns herself with the subject of death. What has changed about her perspective?
Edition: Greenblatt, Stephen et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. E. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN Package 2 (Vols. DEF) 0-393-92834-9.