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LOVE THAT RELEASES NO BELOVED FROM LOVING : CHRISTINA AND DANTE ROSSETTI'S REACTION TO THE 'COURTLY LOVE' CONVENTION OF DANTE ALIGHIERI AND THE IDEALIZATION OF THE FEMALE MUSE Azelina Flint

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"LOVE THAT RELEASES NO BELOVED FROM LOVING": CHRISTINA AND DANTE ROSSETTI'S REACTION TO THE 'COURTLY LOVE' CONVENTION OF DANTE ALIGHIERI AND THE IDEALIZATION OF THE FEMALE MUSE Azelina Flint
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  “LOVE THAT RELEASES NO BELOVED FROM LOVING”:CHRISTINA AND DANTE ROSSETTI’S REACTION TO THE‘COURTLY LOVE’ CONVENTION OF DANTE ALIGHIERI AND THE IDEALIZATION OF THE FEMALE MUSEAzelina Flint CriticshaveidentifiedanideologicaloppositionbetweenChristina Rossetti’s and Dante Rossetti’s  interpretations ofDantean courtlylove.MaryArseneausummarizes this opposition when she claims t hat Dante Rossetti’s central interest in “the  idealized and eternal union of ... human lovers”  contrastsstrikinglywith “Christina’s focusontheunionofbothloverandbelovedwith God”  (27). Such a readinghasitsfoundation inthewidertheologicalopposi-tions of both artists. Christina Rossetti, as a Tractarian poet, is understood as unable to “embrace the Pre-Raphaelite  revolt against dualism: ... a vision of the immanence of the supernatural in the natural”  (Bump 328), while DanteRossetti,asaPre-Raphaelite,isoftenseenas “deliberatel y exclude[ing] trans-cendental ‘meaning’  from his symbols, elevating in their place exact percep-tion and sensation”  (Holmes 13). The Rossettis’  ideological differences thusstem from the fundamental opposition between Christian and Romanticdefinitionsofthedivine,definedherebyCatherineMuselloCantalupo: “div- inity  exists  in Romantic nature, whereas divinity is merely  shadowed   in Christian nature” (283). These oppositions are often understood as the motivation for the Ros- settis’  decisions to focus on contrasting works byDante and, byimplication,on different aspects of his philosophy of courtly love in its diverging aspira-tions towards either sacred or erotic unions. Arseneau has argued that Dante Rossetti’s  focus on Dante’s  love for Beatrice in the  Vita Nuova  is refuted by Christina’s  emphasis on the  Divine Comedy  and her preoccupation with “the redirection of ...  Dante’s love for Beatrice towards the divine” (27). In par- ticular, Christina’s “MonnaInnominata” sonnetsareoftenreadasadirectre-bukeofher  brother’s readingofDanteancourtlylove(Holmes9).HolmeshasThe Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, 24 (Fall 2015)  2 Pre-Raphaelite Studiesarguedthatthesonnetspromotean “alternative ...Christianmoral agenda” toDante Rossetti’s“frank   celebration of sexual love.”  He contends that Chris-tina viewed her  brother’s  preoccupation with the physical aspects of courtlylove as “dangerouslyirreligious”  because it was not directed towards a spir-itual ideal (9). At the centre of this theory is what many have read as the Rossettis’ opposinginterpretationsof  Dante’s loveforBeatrice,withCharlesS. Singleton arguing that Dante Rossetti identifies himself with the “trouba- dour ideology”  of the  Vita Nuova , where “there  is no place for an object of lovehigherthanthe lady,” whileChristinaidentifiesherselfwith the Christianphilosophy of the  Commedia , where there is “no  object of love higher than God” (63). However, both Christina and Dante Rossetti align themselves with ashared tradition of troubadour poetry through investing themselves with theauthority to reinterpret Dante, thereby formulating their own individualizedcourtly-lovephilosophies.BothChristinaandherbrotheralsoportraytrouba-dour poetryas having failed in its attempt torevere the female beloved. EachRossettisiblingisempoweredtocritiquethecourtly-lovetraditioninthiswaybecause they saw themselves as writing from a history of reinterpretation,where each proceeding generation oftroubadour poets was invested with theauthority to challenge the work of their successors. It is therefore importantto study Dante Rossetti’s  a nd Christina Rosseti’s interpretations of Dante within the context of the courtly-love tradition, as well as in relation to thePre-Raphaelite and Tractarian movements. Marjorie Stone’s  essay on theinfluence of Elizabeth  Barrett Browning’s re-writing of the troubadour  tradition in Sonnets fromthePortuguese  on Rossetti’s  “Monna Innominata” indicates an interesting new sphere from which to consider Christina Rossetti’s  Dantean interpretations. In particular, it should be noted that, fol-lowing B arrett Browning’s example, Christina stresses the importance of  striving toattain a physical union with the beloved in the material world, anddebunksthetroubadourconceptoftheidealized,inspirationalwoman(Stone65). She also struggles against the Tractarian ethic of renunciation, and por-trays her “monnainnominata”  or unnamed lady, as unable todefer her unionwith the beloved to the afterlife. By contrast, through maintaining a totaladherence to the image of the idealized beloved, Dante Rossetti shows agreaterfaithinthe artist’s abilitytoachieveaspiritualunionwiththebelovedin the afterlife. Although he emphasizes the physical aspects of the trouba- dour’s love,healsoupholdsthespiritualones,whichdirecttheartisttowardsan ideal of divine transfiguration.MyanalysisofDante Rossetti’s interpretationofDanteiscentredonthreepaintings:  Giotto Painting the Portrait of Dante ,  Paolo and Francesca da Rimini  , and  Beata Beatrix . The three paintings focus on different types of   Flint 3romantic u nion portrayed in Dante’s work. The first is concerned with the traditional courtly relationship between the artist and his silent muse, thesecondwiththephysicallyintimaterelationshipbetweentwoloverswhohavetransgressed the laws of God, and the third with the aspiration of an artisttowardsaspiritual union with the dead beloved. Consequently, these paintingsreveal Dante Rossetti’s  interest in both the physical and spiritual aspects of  Dante’s  philosophy of love. Bydrawing connections between his interpreta-tions of these different romantic unions, I wish to show that his interest inDantean love is not limited to the erotic union, and is never polarized.My discussion of Christina Rossetti’s  work   focusses on her “Monna In nominata” sonnet sequence because it has been consistently read as a riposte toher  brother’s  interpretation ofDante.Thepreface tothissequencecanalsobeseenasacondensed account of  Christina’s  reading ofDante, as itoutlinesits connections with the troubadour tradition as epitomised in the works of Danteand Petrarch.Inself-consciouslyassumingtheroleofboth troubadourand “monnainnominata”  in the preface, Christina presents her personal,feminized interpretation ofcourtlylove that finds its exemplar in the workof Dante and Petrarch. As the preface embodies an explicit account of the rela-tionship of the unnamed muse to the troubadour tradition, and the poems areoften read as expressing Christina’s  emphasison divine love in opposition tothe fleshly preoccupations of her brother, this sequence serves as an iconicmodelofcomparisontoDante Rossetti’s  exploration ofDanteancourtlylovethroughout his career.On the surface, it appears that  the “Preface” of “Monna Innominata” attemptstocreatea new female troubadour tradition, which can be understoodas expressing an ideological alternative to the school of Dante and Petrarchcommonly associated with Dante Rossetti. Christina Rossetti envisions analternative tradition of female troubadours by allowing herself  to “imagine”a “monnainnominata” or “unnamed lady,” of “a school of less conspicuous poets”  who is able to “share  her lover’s  poetic aptitude, while the barrier be-tween them might be held sacred byboth, yet not ... as to render mutual love incompatible with mutual honour” (294). However,JanMarshhaspointedoutthatininvokingatraditionoffemaletroubadours, titled “donneinnominate”  (*), Rossetti was not merelyimagining a literary tradition, but was impl icitly referring to the “fourteen gifted women”  of the troubadour movement that were recorded in Heuffer’s history,  The Troubadours , with which she was familiar (see Stone 52). Thestructure ofthe sequence mayalso allude tothis female troubadour tradition,as it is a “Sonnet  of   Sonnets” made up of fourteen individual sonnets that functionasindividuallinesinthe sequence’s overallstructure.Rossettiisnotattempting to fabricate a mythical alternative to the tradition of Dante and  4 Pre-Raphaelite StudiesPetrarch, but may be instead endeavouring to restore a voice to a lost strandofthetroubadourtradition,whichhasbeendenied alastinghistoricalrecord.She emphasizes this byportraying the monna innominata as partaking in thesentimentsofthe “lesser  known  poet” thatisherlover  –“sharing”  his “poeticaptitude,” aswellashisattitudetowardsthe “barrier  between them” assome-thingthatis “sacred” (294).Asthe “barrier” isatraditionaltropeofthecourt-lylovetradition,Rossettihighlightsthefactthatthemonnainnominata isnotchallenging the tradition, but is rather partaking in it in a manner that provesthat theexpression of  “mutuallove”  between men and women is not “incom- patible with mutual honour.” Nevertheless, the courtly “barrier”  is traditionally associated with thesilence of the female beloved, so Rossetti is also implying that when thebeloved object is granted a voice the gender dynamics of the courtly-loveconvention undergo a radical transition. The portrait of the beloved given tothereaderwouldappear “more tender,ifless dignified” (294),suggestingthata female troubadour would offer a more personal, intimate depiction of thebeloved, as opposed to an idealized one. Such intimacyderives from the factthatthemonna innominata’s emphasiswouldbeonreciprocity,ratherthanonspiritual aspiration, because both speaker and beloved would be engaged inwriting poetry. Rossetti therefore suggests that the male courtly-love ethicdoes not fully engage with the relationship between the troubadour and hismuseinthematerialworldbecauseit emphasizes the ideal, aspirational imageof the female. The barrier created by the male troubadour is a construct be-cause it renders “mutual  love incompatible with mutual honour”  (294). Ros-setti implies that ideal love should be grounded in the actual. As with herbrother, her ideal union finds its source in the material world.While Rossetti criticizes the unequal relationship between the maletroubadour and his beloved and, byimplication, the work of her brother, shenevertheless writes from a tradition of mutual revision and reinterpretationthat is modelled on the  stilnovisti . Moreover, Dante Rossetti also fostered asimilartradition ofreinterpretation within the Pre-Raphaelite movement thatwas based on the practices of the  Dolce stil Novo . Many of his poems werecirculated only within the Pre-Raphaelite circle for years before they werepublished, and underwent multiple revisions in response to the criticisms byhis friends.  The Germ  formalized this revision process. As a collaborativeenterprise wherein all contributors remained anonymous or pseudonymousand assisted each other in their revisions,  The Germ  embodied the early Pre-Raphaelite viewthattheworkoftheartistbelonged totheschool,and did notreflect the ideology of the artist alone. Rossetti modelled this attitude on thephilosophy of the  stilnovisti , who believed that they shared an elite under-standing of love and poetry, and would often circulate their work privately  Flint 5withinthegroupbeforeitwaspresentedtothebeloved,andpromotedoutsideof the circle. Dante even went as far as inviting his fellow poets to interprethis dream-poetry of section III of the  Vita Nuova  (6). He therefore acknow-ledged his limitations as a poet, as well the authorityofthe other members of his circle to interpret his own work. Consequently, when Christina Rossettireinterpretsthehistoryofthetroubadourtraditionandoffersherownaccountofaforgottenstrandofthe stilnovisti school,shemaybesharinginherbroth- er’s  understanding of  Dante’s  philosophy of interpretation, and identifyingherself as a direct inheritor of the tradition, one who is equally entitled to reinterpret Dante’s courtly-love ethic. ChristinaRossettialsoassertsherinterpretiveauthoritythroughhertreat-ment of the troubadour epigraphs in “Monna  Innominata .” Each sonnet is precededbytwoepigraphs:onefromthe Commedia ,andonefrom Petrarch’s Canzoniere .TheepigraphsareinItalian,andintheoriginal1881publicationChristina did not provide translations, despite the fact that her brother, Wil-liam Michael Rossetti, and her friend, Charles Baggott Cayley, had both re-cently published translations of the  Commedia . She also provides no sourcefor the quotations, and therefore places the work of Dante and Petrarch at asecond remove from the reader, denying the English-speaking reader theability to read the text, and the Italian-speaking reader the means to identifyits source. Consequently, she forces Dante and Petrarch to assume the sameposition as Beatrice and Laura because the general reader is only able toaccess an understanding of romantic love through the monna innominata’s interpretive poetry. She thereby invests the monna innominata with the authority to reinterpret Dante and Petrarch’s work, and the interpretations provided in the sonnet s emphasize the monna innominata’s specifically female point of view. For instance, the epigraph to Sonnet 6 takes on a radi-callydifferentmeaningwhenreadalongside Rossetti’s poem,insteadofwith-initssrcinal context in the Purgatorio .Theepigraph,translated,reads: “Here was every fruit and never-ending spring.”  In Dante’s  text, it refers to theearthlyparadise,where “mankind’s  fruitwas innocent”  (142),and which hasbeen preserved by God in purgatory as a “pledge of endless peace” (92). In R ossetti’s  poem, however, this paradisal innocence refers to the reciprocallove that is demanded by the monna innominata: “‘Love  me, for I love you’ –   so shall we stand / As happy equals in the f  lowering land” (6.2-3). In the context of  Rossetti’s  poem, the Dantean epigraph takes on a new meaning.Mankind is not only restored to srcinal innocence in the afterlife, but alsothrough therealization ofapure,reciprocalloveonearth. HereRossettioncemoreassertstheimportanceofanactualunionbetweenthelovers,asopposedtoanidealone.Sheisinsistentonemphasizingthefemale troubadour’s  needto have her love acknowledged, so that she no longer remains a silent object
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