A Close Reading of Christina Rossetti’s Sensationally Bizarre Poem “Goblin Market”
From The History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today? Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
As a devout and passionate religious observer, Victorian poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) lived a life that might seem, at first glance, as proper and tame. Even some of her greatest works, devotional poems and verses for children, strike us as just the kind of art a fine upstanding moralist might generate.
But there was more to Christina Rossetti than that—and in fact, she produced some of the most passionate and idiosyncratic poems of her era. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at her long narrative poem Goblin Market (1859-1862), about two sisters seduced by the fruits being sold by a pack of river goblins, which is one of the most sensationally bizarre poems Jacke has ever read.