Siddal, Keats and Pre-Raphaelite relations of power
in The poems of Elizabeth Siddal in context
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Siddal’s drawing A Woman and a Spectre shows there can be two aspects to a woman’s persona, a dualism Keats also believed in, creating a further platform for intertextual dialogue. Both Keats and Siddal were Pre-Raphaelite constructs, Millais, Hunt and later Rossetti being drawn to Keats’s poems in an effort to give the Brotherhood a philosophy. Keats was also a source of inspiration for C. Rossetti. The Brotherhood are seen to have played a crucial role in Keats’s heritage, radically changing his image after adverse critical reception and adopting his rich sensory Medievalism, and use of allegory and metaphor, hair especially, in both their art and poetry. Four of Keats’s poems, Lamia, Isabella and the Pot of Basil, The Eve of St Agnes and ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ are read against three from Siddal’s collection, prefaced by a history of their illustration in PR hands, examples of the significance of ekphrasis in operation. Representations of the physical body abound in these works, in its needs, health, and temptations. Similarly, the spectral body allows for an extended range of emotion and experience, and the possibility of posthumous existence. The resulting power struggle between the two elements is shown to be ultimately transformative.

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