Date of Award

Winter 1-2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market presents a subversive critique on the socially constructed dichotomy of Angel versus Demon as depicted in Pre-Raphaelite artwork, Dante Gabriele Rossetti’s poetry, and Coventry Patmore’s poem Angel in the House. An analysis of Goblin Market in relation to Patmore’s poem and the Pre-Raphaelite paintings The Annunciation, Ophelia, Lady Lilith, Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses, and Sibylla Palmifera and Dante Gabriele Rossetti’s poems “Soul’s Beauty” and “Body’s Beauty” illustrate the ways in which Rossetti presents a counter-image that breaks down this socially constructed dichotomy. This is additionally supported by an exploration into how Goblin Market draws attention to the real-life mutability that existed in Victorian women, such as the capability of being simultaneously powerful, sexual, and moral. After first establishing the concept of the idealized woman, and its pervasiveness, by analyzing Victorian conduct manuals and Patmore’s poem Angel in the House, the essay will analyze writings by Dante Gabriele Rossetti and Pre-Raphaelite artwork for their representations of the cultural ideal of the Angel as well as the doubling that simultaneously creates the Demon Woman. The Pre-Raphaelites, like all Victorians, were subject to Patmore’s ideology; they internalized it and consequently created art that is largely influenced by that ideology. Their artwork presents a neurotic, yet logical, response to the “Angel in the House.” Following an analysis of the cultural extent of these feminine ideals, an exploration of Christina Rossetti’s writing uncovers to what degree she absorbed this ideology. Being brought up in this culture, Rossetti learned about the ideal woman and arguably conformed to that ideal. Yet, by appearing to operate from within the boundaries of the proper female role, Rossetti was able to use her writing to challenge the confining role prescribed for women. As a woman inside the ideology who followed the norms established by society, Rossetti was able to use her writing to subvert the very norms she appeared to accept and follow. By behaving as an “Angel in the House,” society took Rossetti’s writing seriously, which allowed her to critique the ideology she appeared to embrace.



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