Constellations of desire: The Double and the Other in the works of Dante Gabriel and Christina Georgina Rossetti
Klein, Jeannine M. E.
Morris, Wesley A.
Doctor of Philosophy
Theoreticians of the problem of the other have overlooked a crucial distinction between two competing modes of alterity: The Other, a classic strategy of metaphorical, externalized singularity, and The Double, a modern strategy of metonymical, internalized multiplicity. The discovery of these two modes of alterity untangles many of the difficulties encountered in attempting to reconcile the theories of writers frequently seen as inimical to one another, including Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, Sigmund Freud, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Edward Said, and Tzvetan Todorov. These two strategic modes enable women and men, artists and writers, to create "constellations of desire"--traditional and non-traditional "imaginary" psychological outlines constructed from the fixed points or reference in our lives--to deal with loss and alterity. While this paradigm can be profitably applied to many eras of loss, one particularly enlightening local instantiation of the problem occurs in the Victorian era, specifically in the life and works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Christina Georgina Rossetti. The Rossettis rall under the sign of Gemini in the Victorian constellations of desire: brother and sister poets, standing in the same place, they yet face in opposite directions and follow reversed trajectories with reference to their fixed stars or family, faith, and the female. The strategies of The Double and The Other occur repeatedly throughout their lives, in their interactions with their father and their siblings, where questions of voice and textual incest become prominent; in their problematical relationships to ascEtic, aesthetic, and erotic forms of faith; and in their relationship to the female--mother, fallen woman, and beloved epipsyche--both as lived experience and as envisioned/revisioned object of the gaze. Particular eruptions materialize in poems and paintings such as Dante Gabriel's "Jenny," "Blessed Damozel," "Proserpine," "Ecce Ancilla Domini!," "Sister Helen," "Ave," "Hand and Soul," "A Last Confession"; and Christina's "Goblin Market," "A Royal Princess," Sing-Song, "Maggie A Lady," "Maude Clare," and "Monna Innominata," as well as her drawings. The picture that emerges allows Christina the strength as well as the anguish of her faith, making her a more complex and interesting writer than previously acknowledged, while it recuperates Dante Gabriel's reputation from accusations of chauvinism and obscurantism.
Biographies; Art history; Women's studies; English literature