A revolutionary figure throughout his career, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s work provides a distinctly revolutionary lens through which the Victorian period can be viewed. Suggesting that Rossetti’s work should be approached through his poetry, Brian Donnelly argues that it is both inscribed by and inscribes the development of verbal as well as visual culture in the Victorian era. In his discussions of modernity, aestheticism, and material culture, he identifies Rossetti as a central figure who helped define the terms through which we approach the cultural productions of this period. Donnelly begins by articulating a method for reading Rossetti’s poetry that highlights the intertextual relations within and between the poetry and paintings. His interpretations of such poems as the 'Mary’s Girlhood' sonnets, the sonnet sequence The House of Life, and 'The Orchard-Pit' in relationship to paintings such as The Girlhood of Mary Virgin and Ecce Ancilla Domini! shed light on Victorian ideals of femininity, on consumer culture, and on the role of gender hierarchies in Victorian culture. Situating Rossetti’s poetry as the key to all of his work, Donnelly also makes a case for its centrality in its representation of the dominant discourses of the late Victorian period: faith, sex, consumption, death, and the nature of representation itself.
'This well-researched and erudite book will appeal to both Rossetti specialists and a broader audience of Victorian scholars. Dealing with both art and literature, Reading Dante Gabriel Rossetti excels in close visual and textual readings and offers fresh insights into the work of the painter-poet.' - Amelia Yeates, Liverpool Hope University, UK
'His book employs a subtly nuanced and groundbreaking approach to the art and poetry of a major nineteenth-century figure that will undoubtedly give rise to similar studies along these lines. Using Donnelly’s example, other themes in Rossetti’s considerable corpus of written and painted work might be treated in this way, and Donnelly’s book will certainly be welcomed as a major development in Rossetti studies.' - J.B. Bullen, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies