Brainwork and Community in D.G. Rossetti's "Eden Bower"

In the last years of his life, Dante Gabriel Rossetti provided a bit of advice to Thomas Hall Craine: “Conception, my boy, fundamental brainwork, that is what makes all the difference in art.”  Included in this demand for intellectuality in poetry, I argue that Rossetti incorporates the brainwork of community, of deriving creative inspiration from his fraternity. Intellectuality, for Rossetti, is founded on a collaborative sense of creation: the intimacy of shared thought and liberal exchange.

By imagining the lyric’s future in 1870, Rossetti established a way forward for the materiality of poetry through aural and visual rhythm and “culturally resonant form,” as Elizabeth Helsinger has recently argued.  By tracing the creative process in the archival drafts of “Eden Bower,” I demonstrate the intellectual ardor and creative exertion contained within each of Rossetti’s poems. I posit that such a process becomes embedded in his prosody (or affective music of verse), particularly, as this article will explore, the rhythm of the refrain ballads in the first part of Poems. In doing so, I suggest that Poems offers a response akin to William Morris’s usage of the performative lyric as a transformation of collective, social fellowship, while providing, also, a framework for defining the lyric potential of Pre-Raphaelite poetics.

It is well recognized that Rossetti sought advice and suggestions from friends and fellow poets at every stage in the creation and publication of Poems. And yet, there has been little attention given to Rossetti’s responses when offered those recommendations. Preserved within the archive, Rossetti’s material response to these suggestions can be witnessed in his revisions to his poetry. By analyzing these drafts alongside the correspondence, I demonstrate the ways in which Rossetti’s lyric form and innovation is indebted to fraternal brainwork. “I hardly ever do produce a sonnet except on some basis of special momentary emotion,” wrote Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Bell Scott on 25 August 1871. “But I think there is another class admissible also—and that is the only other I practice […which is dependent] on a line or two clearly given you, you know not whence, and calling up a sequence of ideas.”  As part of his experimental poetics, Rossetti integrates this fraternal exchange of ideas as a way of shaping and reinventing lyric matter.


Publication Date: 2020

Publication Name: Victoriographies. Special Issue on 150th anniversary of D.G. Rossetti’s "Poems."

"a royal lady [re]born": Balladry, Transport, and Transgression in Michael Field's The Tragic Mary

It is no coincidence that during the same period in which Michael Field believed their work symbolized resurrection and renewal, the cultural moment of the 1890s encouraged artists to gain interest in blurring genre lines. This article suggests that the rise of a “decadent poetic drama,” to borrow Ana Parejo Vadillo’s categorization of Michael Field’s historical dramas, comes in part not, as the couple’s contemporaries and immediate antecedents argue, from a lack of form, but from formal experimentation. If Aristotle believed drama to be an imitation of action, and mimesis to be a showing (or representation) versus a narrative retelling of that action, Michael Field refashions the formal history of drama by playing with voice, rhythm, and structure. Further, I speculate that the couple experiments with ballad meter in The Tragic Mary to incorporate a social mimesis founded on female community and contagious transference, or transport. In this play, Mary Stuart’s three ballads enact an affective communal experience that enables expressions of female desire. The ballad meter, I suggest, enacts the role of  affective transport with its contagious meter and rhythm.

Publication Date: Dec 2017

Publication Name: Victorian Poetry 55.4 (2017)

"with me": The Sympathetic Collaboration of Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley

This article examines Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1814 shared elopement journal, evidencing the initial collaboration between the couple, to trace the ways in which formal elements of the journal’s entries illuminate the interlocked system of collaborative connection and interpersonal identification engaged in the couple. Tracing the entries as a way of marking the couple’s convergence, and examining Godwin and Shelley’s attempt to redefine themselves from singular individualism to radical pluralism, this article considers the beginnings of a sympathetic collaboration taking place within the journal’s shared pages. The elopement journal supports, in a broader sense, a new understanding of literary collaboration that is necessarily informed by the mechanics of the writing process, illustrated in the formal elements of the prose and textual or marginal traces within the manuscripts. The private circulation of feeling and sympathy within individual entries mimics the physical circulation of texts and ideas between the couple.


Publication Date: Apr 2016

Publication Name: Forum for Modern Language Studies 52.2 Special Issue. "Co-Constructions of Self: Nineteenth-Century Collaborative Life-Writing."