• Dinah Roe


Virginia Woolf once wrote that if she were to put God on trial, she would summon Christina Rossetti as a witness.1 If Rossetti’s devotional work were submitted into evidence, this case would almost certainly result in a hung jury, if not an outright acquittal. Woolf’s indictment of God comes up hard against the same problem that faces all of Rossetti’s critics: a long and diverse career which takes our ‘witness’, and her beliefs and influences, from novice to authority. Rossetti’s poetic imagination was shaped by her faith, and her faith by her poetic imagination, in a symbiotic relationship that intensified over her half-century of writing. As critics are beginning to observe, it is a mistake to think, as Woolf does, that ‘years of traffic with men and books did not affect [Rossetti] in the least’.2 The development of her faithful imagination is so subtle and slow that it is all too easy to miss, especially if there is an attempt to force a clear distinction, as Germaine Greer does, between ‘the poems of Rossetti’s rebellion and self-assertion’ and ‘those of her resignation and self-denial’.


Religious Faith Feminist Criticism Christian Doctrine Poetic Imagination Diverse Career 
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© Dinah Roe 2007

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  • Dinah Roe

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