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The Death-Motif in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti


Claudia Ottlinger

While Emily Dickinson as a forerunner of modern American poetry has met with a good critical response, Christina Rossetti is still regarded as a minor Victorian poet. Despite all their biographical, religious and poetic differences the comparative approach is appropriate for shedding new light on these two women's poetic output, which is preoccupied with death, and for displaying their cultural divergences as well as their transcultural affinities. Based on a new typology and with reference to 220 primary texts, this book highlights Dickinson's and Rossetti's supremely complex view of death, characterized by an enormous amount of shifting emphases and perspectives and focussing on the lyrical I that oscillates between fear and fascination, numb despair and welcome release.


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Page 1. Introduction and critical assessment of research on Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti 9 2. Dickinson, Rossetti, and their obsession with death - the biographical and historical background 21 3. The phenomenon of death in Dickinson's and Rossetti's poetry 3.1 General characteristics of death: "the uncertain certainty" (Dickinson, 1411) "Holy slumber, holy quiet" (Rossetti, "Song (The stream moaneth as it floweth)") 39 3.2 Witnessing other people's death: "His death is full, and mine begun." (Rossetti, "A Peal of Bells") "Looking at Death, is Dying-" (Dickinson, 281) 63 3.3 The relationship between the living and the dead: "Yet Blesseder- than We -I Through Knowing" (Dickinson, 499) "Brimful of knowledge they may not impart" (Rossetti, "Later Life", 28) 77 3.4 Reactions of the moumers: "Whilst I weep I Angels sing around thy singing soul" (Rossetti, "Better so") "A darker Ribbon- for a Day-" (Dickinson, 255) 97 7 3.5 Visions of their own deaths: "I could not see to see" (Dickinson, 465) "Dumb I was when the ruin fell" (Rossetti, Introspective") 115 3.6 Beyond death: eternity and immortality: "the far-away home of beautiful Paradise" (Rossetti, "So great a Cloud of Witnesses") " 'Heaven' has different Signs- to me-" (Dickinson, 575) 137 4. Evaluation 167 5. Bibliography 175 6. Index of poems treated or mentioned 183 8

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