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“What of her glass without her?” Prismatic Desire & Auto-Erotic Anxiety in the Art & Poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Do check out my article in the latest issue of the Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies – “What of Her Glass Without Her?” Prismatic Desire and Autoerotic Anxiety in the Art and Poetry of Dante Rossetti. / Vol. 28, 2019, p. 16-35.

Journeying through the looking glass, this paper examines autoerotic anxiety in the works of Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The Pre-Raphaelite muse, enshrined within the metaphor of the mirror, became a prism through which the artist sought to refract his own desires. In this hermeneutic hall of mirrors feminine identity habitually recedes into the distance. At times, however, the female muse becomes a defiant mirror image that holds the artist in her reflexive thrall. Incorporating phenomena such as “the Venus effect”, Lacanian mirror theory, psychiatric photography, and the Contagious Diseases Act of 1864: I will examine how the looking glass, as a reflective, translucent medium, became inextricably intertwined with femininity. This paper draws on Isobel Armstrong’s Victorian Glassworlds and the work of pre-Raphaelite scholars J. B Bullen and J. H. Miller who first identified Rossetti’s love of crafting “mirrors of masculine desire”.

 

Published by Rosalind White

I am a first-year PhD student at Royal Holloway looking at gender & emotions in the science & literature of the nineteenth-century. My research looks at how natural history in many ways dwelt within the feminine sphere of Victorian culture. And charts a more intimate, personal exploration of natural history that examines the lives of its practitioners beyond the impact of conventional watersheds.

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