Concealing and Revealing Seriousness: Fantasy and Female Sexuality in Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”

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Abstract

Christina Rossetti’s position as a poet was established with the publication of “Goblin Market.” While Rossetti’s work manifests social themes and makes use of symbology, she uses an aesthetically sophisticated mode of fantasy for “Goblin Market.” This paper explores Rossetti’s feminist stance by focusing on the subversive force of fantasy that has the potential to disrupt the symbolic realm. Presented as nonsense and childishness, goblins in the poem are central to the fantastic and implicitly protest against Victorian England’s seriousness. As the goblin men entice young women with their erotic fruits, what constitutes the fantasy here is associated with female sexuality. The goblin fruits put girls at risk. Yet it is the same fruits that save the girls. As I will argue, to mediate for the Victorian readers her view of female sexuality Rossetti combines the goblins with the maternal body that is nourishing and erotic. Rossetti’s fantasy challenges the prevailing ideology of woman by relocating motherhood in the symbolic order. I would propose that the fantastic, the goblins that disrupt the binaristic can be explained by the notion of Julia Kristeva’s semiotic chora. For Kristeva, the chora, which is closely associated with the maternal body, constitutes the pre-Oedipal bodily elements and drive. In Kristevan terms, Rossetti’s goblin world, an unseen and unnameable space, is the maternal realm of the semiotic that can erupt into the symbolic realm. The goblins resurface, triggering new processes of signification and reuniting the speaking subject with the prelinguistic realm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-682
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of English Language and Literature
Volume65
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

Keywords

  • fantasy
  • female sexuality. maternal body
  • goblins
  • semiotic chora

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