Christina Rossetti and Gerard Manley Hopkins lived in an age increasingly affected by what Hillis Miller has called “the disappearance of God”. Influenced by Tractarianism, they strove to assert their Christian beliefs in their verses; but they were also influenced by contemporary anxieties generated by the age’s spiritual drainage. The materialistic attitude of many Victorians, the challenges posed by scientific discoveries, the growing sense of living in a world deprived of a teleology with ties to Christianity forced both poets to develop new strategies of poetic composition which, while giving voice to their never-quenched search for spiritual answers, were more problematic than those used by devotional poets among the Tractarians. Instead of pursuing analogic forms of representation, Rossetti and Hopkins developed specific strategies of composition which reveal their wavering between faith and doubt, acceptance and rebellion, self-denial and self-assertion. For her part, the poetess exerted a significant influence on the younger poet, as evidenced by Hopkins’s composition of “A Voice from the World” (1864-65), an answer to Rossetti’s “The Convent Threshold” (1862). One strategy, in particular, deserves attention: their similar elaboration of the biblical pattern of the contention between man and God. The aim of my paper is to analyse verses by Rossetti and Hopkins which make ample use of this pattern and, as such, bear evidence to their authors’ interesting experimentation. By comparing such Rossettian poems as “When My Heart Is Vexed, I Will Complain”, “Weary in Well-Doing” and “Have I Not Striven” with some of Hopkins’s “terrible sonnets”, I intend to investigate the rhetorical and figurative strategies adopted by both poets who responded to circulating worries by developing alternative forms of poetic composition. In particular, I will focus my attention on the questioning-and-doubting-God pattern drawn from Jeremiah and Job, and the wrestling-with- God pattern based on Jacob’s story. Both used to express the authors’ agonized search for divine order and meaning in a world devoid of theodicy, these strategies are functional to Rossetti’s and Hopkins’s pursuit of a new ontological sense, of new relations with a Deus absconditus who is given actuality by the very depiction of his verbal and physical struggle with the poetic subject.

Contending with God: Biblical Pattern and Poetic Variations in Christina Rossetti and G.M. Hopkins

Costantini, Mariaconcetta
2018

Abstract

Christina Rossetti and Gerard Manley Hopkins lived in an age increasingly affected by what Hillis Miller has called “the disappearance of God”. Influenced by Tractarianism, they strove to assert their Christian beliefs in their verses; but they were also influenced by contemporary anxieties generated by the age’s spiritual drainage. The materialistic attitude of many Victorians, the challenges posed by scientific discoveries, the growing sense of living in a world deprived of a teleology with ties to Christianity forced both poets to develop new strategies of poetic composition which, while giving voice to their never-quenched search for spiritual answers, were more problematic than those used by devotional poets among the Tractarians. Instead of pursuing analogic forms of representation, Rossetti and Hopkins developed specific strategies of composition which reveal their wavering between faith and doubt, acceptance and rebellion, self-denial and self-assertion. For her part, the poetess exerted a significant influence on the younger poet, as evidenced by Hopkins’s composition of “A Voice from the World” (1864-65), an answer to Rossetti’s “The Convent Threshold” (1862). One strategy, in particular, deserves attention: their similar elaboration of the biblical pattern of the contention between man and God. The aim of my paper is to analyse verses by Rossetti and Hopkins which make ample use of this pattern and, as such, bear evidence to their authors’ interesting experimentation. By comparing such Rossettian poems as “When My Heart Is Vexed, I Will Complain”, “Weary in Well-Doing” and “Have I Not Striven” with some of Hopkins’s “terrible sonnets”, I intend to investigate the rhetorical and figurative strategies adopted by both poets who responded to circulating worries by developing alternative forms of poetic composition. In particular, I will focus my attention on the questioning-and-doubting-God pattern drawn from Jeremiah and Job, and the wrestling-with- God pattern based on Jacob’s story. Both used to express the authors’ agonized search for divine order and meaning in a world devoid of theodicy, these strategies are functional to Rossetti’s and Hopkins’s pursuit of a new ontological sense, of new relations with a Deus absconditus who is given actuality by the very depiction of his verbal and physical struggle with the poetic subject.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11564/698819
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