The critic and the scholar
Christina and Maria Francesca Rossetti’s Dante sisterhood
in Dante beyond influence
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Chapter three argues that by the mid-1870s, the rising field of Dante Studies had become one of the new territories of endeavour claimed by a growing public of women of letters, actively negotiating their critical identity and scholarly authority as professional mediators of Dantean knowledge. Through an initial bibliographical survey, the chapter illustrates how a socially varied community of established and of lesser-known women writers played a pivotal part in launching the process of production, promotion and dissemination of Dantean literature among in late Victorian Britain, through a wide-ranging body of literary and pedagogic works. The chapter focuses on the paradigmatic case of Christina and Maria Francesca Rossetti for the way they negotiated with the forces of patriarchal authority represented by their male-centric “family dantismo”, to achieve authority as public and professional mediators of Dantean knowledge. The chapter first discusses on Christina’s periodical articles - ‘Dante, an English Classic’ for the Churchman’s Shilling Magazine and Family Treasury (1867) and ‘Dante, the Poet illustrated out of the Poem’ for the Century Magazine (1884) – and her work as editor Cayley’s translation of the Commedia: an activity documented in her personal edition of the work, now at the Houghton Library. It then moves onto the textual and book-historical analysis of Maria Francesca’s handbook A Shadow of Dante (1871) to elucidate the biographical dynamics through which she constructed her critical expertise and scholarly knowledge, gaining cultural power and public recognition as a pioneer Dante scholar on the Victorian literary market. 

Dante beyond influence

Rethinking reception in Victorian literary culture

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