"Spheral change": D. G. Rossetti envisioning an alternative Victorian masculinity

Jay D Sloan, Marquette University


Though largely obscured by the ideologically more dominant voices of his age, in his poetry Dante Gabriel Rossetti evidences his struggle to evade prevailing gender prescriptions, particularly the socially uncompromising and destructive division maintained between nude and female spheres. In particular, his devotion to an essentially anti-Victorian "aesthetics of passion" formed the means whereby Rossetti subverted culturally held boundaries, attempted to envision an alternate form of Victorian masculinity. As a consequence, Victorian advocates of what I label a "hyper-masculine" sexual economics, as well as staunch adherents of Victorian domesticity, would mark Rossetti's rather remarkable affinities with "the feminine" as evidence of dangerously unmanful and womanish excess. From this resulted the very common critical rejection of Rossetti's work as "effeminate" and "fleshly," a heritage which informs the reception of Rossetti to this day. This dissertation offers a careful study of Rossetti's various lifelong attempts at self-positioning within the discourses of Victorian masculinity, and examines the cultural marginality which both his contemporary and subsequent critics attempted to impose upon him, in an attempt to describe the ideological complexities which have made, and which continue to make, Rossetti an elusive figure for critics and readers alike.

Recommended Citation

Sloan, Jay D, ""Spheral change": D. G. Rossetti envisioning an alternative Victorian masculinity" (1999). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9929169.