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The Role of Sisterhood in the Goblin Market


Anne Dalke's picture


Rosenberg's essay is an analysis of "relations between women in the nineteenth-century America"--is there any reason to doubt its relevance for an English female poet in 1862?

You do a nice job here of showing the important role Jeanie plays in the poem as exemplar of the sisterless (therefore "lost") woman, and the ways in which her position resembles that of Eliza, the coquette.

But I'd like to nudge you to keep on thinking some more about the way in which you see "sisterhood, not marriage or relationship with any man," as the ultimate virtue in the poem, one that offers, moreover, a "form of conditioning" that prevents "Goblin Market" from being read as "a steamy erotic poem." Why the investment in avoiding a sexual reading, and replacing it with a sisterly one?

When we talked about this project, I had suggested that you might complexify your understanding of sisterly bonds by looking @ Helen Michie's book, Sororophobia: Differences among Women in Literature, which examines hte textual representation of differences among women @ a variety of historical moments and in a variety of cultural contexts. According to one review, Sororophobia "designates the complex and shifting relations between women's attempts to identify with other women and their often simultaneous desire to establish and retain difference. Michie argues for the centrality to feminism of a paradigm that moves beyond celebrations of identity and sisterhood to a more nuanced notion of women's relations with other women which may include such uncomfortable concepts as envy, jealousy, and competition as well as more institutionalized ideas of difference such as race and class.

I'd like to nudge you, still, into something of this more nuanced understanding of the "female world of love and ritual" that--following Smith-Rosenberg--you celebrate here. Are there no traces of (say) envy, jealousy and competition in Rossetti's poem?