The Demon and the Damozel — 2008

Dynamics of Desire in the Works of Christina Rossetti and Dante Gabriel Rossetti

By Suzanne Waldman

The Demon and the Damozel provides a model of what a psychoanalytic criticism of poetry can be. The readings Waldman offers are astute, nuanced, and beautifully grounded in the details of the poems, which shimmer with meaning in her deft handling of them.”

Beth Newman, author of Subjects on Display: Psychoanalysis, Social Expectation, and Victorian Femininity

“(Waldman’s) use of psychoanalytic concepts in interpreting works by Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti is exemplary and her study presents new and often fascinating interpretations of their works.”

The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies

“(T)hanks to Waldman's nimble psychoanalytic commentary, the chronologically re-ordered House of Life emerges as a brilliant quest for transcendence.…The sequence…occasions some of Waldman's most engagingly ambitious claims about Rossetti's anticipation of modern psychoanalytic theory.”

Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net

Developing a perspective on Victorian culture as the breeding ground for early theories of the unconscious and the divided psyche, The Demon and the Damozel: Dynamics of Desire in the Works of Christina Rossetti and Dante Gabriel Rossetti offers a new reading of these eminent Victorian siblings’ literature and visual arts.

Suzanne M. Waldman views well-known poems and artworks such as Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Blessed Damozel and Venus Verticordia in new ways that expose their authors’ savvy anticipation of concepts that would come to be known as narcissism, fetishism, and the symbolic and imaginary orders, among many others. Waldman makes a strong case for the particular psychoanalytic importance of the Rossettis by looking at how the two Rossetti siblings’ own psyches were divided by conflicts between the period’s religious scruples and its taste for gothic sensationalism.

The Demon and the Damozel is a close and contextualized reading of their writings and artwork that displays, for the first time, continuity between the medieval cosmologies these Pre-Raphaelites drew upon and the psychoanalytic theories they looked ahead to—and locates the intricate patterns of proto-psychoanalytic understanding in the rich tapestry of Pre-Raphaelite aestheticism.


Picture of Suzanne Waldman

Suzanne Waldman teaches in the English department at Carleton University, Ottawa.

Cover of 'The Demon and the Damozel'

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