Women in the Victorian period were acknowledged to be the "religious sex," but their relationship to the doctrines, practices, and hierarchies of Christianity was both highly circumscribed, which has been well documented, and complexly creative, which has not. Gray visits the importance of the literature of Christian devotion to women's creative lives through an examination of the varied ways in which Victorian women reproduced and recreated traditional Christian texts in their own poetic texts. Investigating how women poets redeployed the discourse of Christianity to uncover the multiple voices of the scriptures, to expand identity and gender constructions, and to question traditional narratives and processes of authorization, Gray contends that women found in religious poetry unexpected, liberating possibilities. Taking into account multiple voices, from the best-known female poets of the day to some of the most obscure, this study provides a comprehensive account of Victorian women's religious poetic creativity, and argues that this body of work helped shape the development of the lyric in the Victorian period.
"This is a significant contribution to the study of nineteenth-century poetry. Gray's rigorous literary and cultural history reminds us that devotional poetry had a crucial place in the world of Victorian letters, and her ingenious reading strategies open up this body of literature in highly compelling and illuminating ways." —Charles LaPorte, University of Washington
"Gray's book, with its broad sweep of poets both canonical and forgotten, its passionate defense of its subject matter, and its suggestions for future studies on the topic, is a good introductory resource for future scholars of Victorian religious and devotional poetry."
- Maria LaMonaca, Columbia College, Victorian Studies
"F. Elizabeth Gray redeems Victorian women's Christian-themed poetry from and for modern readers."
- Chase Pielak, Anglican & Episcopal History
"Gray’s study should usher in a new generation of readers of religious writing who seek the sophistication in what are evidently, and energetically, lyrical antiphonies." - Rhian Williams, English Studies Journal
Acknowledgments Introduction Chapter 1: "Heirs of more than royal race": The Inheritance of Victorian Women Religious Poets Chapter 2: "God’s interpreters to the sons of misery": Rewriting Master Narratives Chapter 3: The Woman in the Scriptures: Models of the Christian Female in Victorian Women’s Poetry Chapter 4: "Accept me Lord, for Thee I own": Women’s Devotional Poetry and the Development of Relationship Chapter 5: Virtue and Virtuosity: Style in the Victorian Woman’s Religious Lyric Conclusion Appendix A Notes Bibliography Index