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'We can but spell a surface history': the biblical typology of Christina Rossetti

By Elizabeth Ludlow


My research examines Christina Rossetti’s use of biblical typology in her articulation of individual and communal identity. The central concern of my thesis is with tracing the ways in which she bridges the gap between the two biblical covenants and her contemporary situation by a ceaseless interpretative movement between the discourses of the Old and New Testaments. After examining the basis for her typological modes of reading, I demonstrate the various ways in which they underpin her interpretations of Tractarian, Romantic, and Pre-Raphaelite writings as well as providing her with a framework with which to structure her own poetic sequences.\ud In my examination of the ways in which Rossetti engages with patristic and medieval theology and articulates identity through the cyclical dynamics of typology, I consider her writings alongside those of Isaac Williams, John Keble, John Henry Newman, and Edward Pusey and highlight the key part they play in reinforcing the Oxford Movement’s liturgical momentum. Focusing specifically on her poetic utilization of the ancient practice of chanting psalms and antiphons, her engagement with the musicality of the church service, and her depiction of the visual aspects of ritualism, I read her poetry in terms of the mystical journey towards God upon which, she suggests, each Christian embarks.\ud Applying to Rossetti’s poetry the method of typological analysis that she herself uses, I consider how the poems in her 1893 volume, Verses, can be understood to comment upon her earlier works and how her earlier poetry can be seen as an antecedent to her later works. Through this, I trace the development of her theology as it engages more directly with the hermeneutical principles encouraged by the Tractarians and offers a basis upon which the patristic concept of trinitarian personhood can be understood

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  2. (2001). Rossetti: The Complete Poems, text
  3. (2004). The House of Life,
  4. (1999). The Pre-Raphaelite Body: Fear and Desire in Painting, Poetry, and Criticism (Oxford: doi
  5. (1847). The Sonnets and Stanzas of Petrarch, trans. by Charles Bagot Cayley (London: Longmans, Green & co., 1879)269 Pusey, Edward ‘Preface,’ in Père Jean-Joseph Surin, The Foundations of The Spiritual Life: Drawn from the Book of the Imitation of Jesus Christ
  6. (1990). Tract 3, On Alterations in the Liturgy’ in Tracts for the Times, i —, Parochial and Plain Sermons 1834-42. 8 vols.

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