The Anglo-Catholic quality of Christina Rossetti's apocalyptic vision in The Face of the Deep.
Armond, Andrew D.
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Critical scholarship on Christina Rossetti's The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse, where it exists at all, tends to interpret the work as an individualistic and subversive foray into biblical interpretation. However, this dissertation argues that Rossetti's apocalyptic vision in The Face of the Deep is formed by the interpretive presuppositions of the Anglo-Catholic movement, which sought to reinvigorate the interpretation of Scripture with the traditional exegetical methods of patristic and medieval scholars. The central concern of this dissertation is thus to identify particular ways in which Rossetti's The Face of the Deep relies on an identifiable ecclesiastical interpretive tradition and to tease out the implications of Rossetti's use of these traditions for her work both as a budding theologian and as an established poet. Chapter two demonstrates that Rossetti's ostensibly individualistic and pietistic tendencies toward the personal appropriation of the Scriptures are governed less by a Romantic notion of the individual reader of Scripture than by presuppositions with which medieval monks and scholars approached Scriptural study. Chapter three examines Rossetti's anagogical interpretation in The Face of the Deep, particularly the ways in which Rossetti’s mature view of patience draws on patristic and medieval understandings of the temporal relationship of the Christian to God. Chapter four notes carefully Rossetti's use of the Anglo-Catholic doctrine of Reserve, as promulgated by Isaac Williams in Tracts 80 and 89, in The Face of the Deep. I look first at the manifestation of the doctrine in Rossetti's prose, especially as it relates to both her own self-abnegation and her exhortation to her readers to avoid "evil knowledge," and secondly at the doctrine as it helps explain the stylistic oscillation of poetry and prose in the commentary. In chapter five, finally, I examine several of Rossetti’s early poems, including "Symbols," "The Convent Threshold," "Goblin Market," and "The Prince's Progress," to explore the ways in which The Face of the Deep serves as a kind of "grammar," a symbolic and theological vocabulary, by which all of Rossetti's poetry can be interpreted.