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Double Identity in Rossetti's Poems

This posting guides students about "The Double Text in Christina Rossetti's 'After Death' and 'Remember.'" It also addresses this claim:

"Margaret Reynolds notes what she calls the doubleness of Christina Rossetti's poetry. She argues that her poetry characterizes the kind of life that Rossetti led. Society required a woman to be demure, but Rossetti subtly expressed powerful individuality. On the surface, Rossetti's work, exemplified in these two poems, seems "neat, polite, and 'simple,'" but that surface hides an attitude that is "perverse, caustic, and complex" (27). Many critics have noticed the doubleness and complexity of Rossetti's poetry, but would you agree with Reynolds that Rossetti's work is caustic or perverse? What does Reynolds mean by those terms, and is it fair to apply them to Rossetti's work? Compare Reynolds very careful readings of "After Death" (from the Norton Anthology, page 1461) and "Remember" with your own and determine whether Reynolds's characterization of Rossetti is accurate. Can you also add an understanding of Rossetti's other poetry that can be added to this argument?"

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In order to help with this largely subjective question, please allow some of these ideas to help you:

Reynolds' "Speaking Un-likeness: The Double Text in Christina Rossetti's 'After Death' and 'Remember'" suggests a doubleness associated with Christina Rossetti's poetry. Although I agree that Rossetti does not confirm to typical Victorian standards for female poets with her doubleness, I do not deem Rossetti's work as "perverse, and caustic." Although I agree that Rossetti's poetry is complex and defies traditional conventions and rigid parameters for female writers of her era, I do not deem her work as caustic or perverse. Instead, I view her work as feminist poetry as she radically breaks traditions and constraints upon female poets.

Regardless of which side that you chose, you have a solid case for either argument. If you want to agree with Reynolds, I can also help you. For this brainstorming session, I want to argue that she is a brave yet complex feminist writer, not perverse and caustic.

First, "After Death" defies conventions and articulates Rossetti's complex and feminist
notions. This poem definitely contains doubleness as it first starts with familiar and typical reactions to death as Rossetti declares,
"He leaned above me, thinking that I slept
And could not hear him; but I heard him say:
'Poor child, poor child:' and as he turned away
Came a deep silence, and I knew he wept."

Although this poem initially looks like a simple lament for the decreased lover, Rossetti's clever doubleness occurs when the speaker proclaims,
"He did not love me living; but once dead
...

Solution Summary

This posting addresses double identity and criticism related to Christina Rossetti's poetry.

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