Erin Menut has observed that "with its running references to Dante and Petrarch, and currents of biblical allusion, 'Monna Innominata
' is the palimpsestic text par excellence." (15) Rossetti's prefatory note to her "sonnet of sonnets" calls attention to the range of its intertextual engagements; it also specifies a dramatic speaker distinct from the poet herself: "[I]n that land and that period which gave simultaneous birth to Catholics, to Albigenses, and to Troubadours, one can imagine many a lady as sharing her lover's poetic aptitude....
Rossetti's "Monna Innominata
" has received much deserved
In its vision of love as a desire that cannot be satisfied, Mother and Daughter parts company with Sonnets from the Portuguese, and unlike Monna Innominata
it advocates accepting-rather than transcending-the disappointments of human love.
," 1.5, 1.13, 5.1, 5.2, 8.1, 12.2, 13.8);
In "'What Remains?: Intertextual Itinerary and Palimpsestic Melancholia in Christina Rossetti's 'Monna Innominata
'" (Double Vision: Literary Palimpsests of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, ed.
We see this pattern of renouncing earthly passions, once experienced, in favor of religious devotion and fulfillment in works published later as well, such as the incomparable Monna Innominata
sonnets, whose speaker tells her story of "love and parting in exceeding pain" (11.6).
(19) Marjorie Stone takes issue with this claim, arguing that EBB's prior subversion of love sonnet conventions significantly influenced Rossetti's sequence; see "Monna Innominata
and Sonnets from the Portuguese," in The Culture of Christina Rossetti: New Essays on Christina Rossetti, ed.
Observing that the emptiness of this formula would be "no surprise to contemporary feminine psychoanalysis," Slinn concludes that "courtly love structures could not provide suitable roles for female poets without considerable modification, as both Elizabeth Barrett Browning in "Sonnets from the Portuguese and Christina Rossetti in 'Monna Innominata
' demonstrate; but The House of Life shows that these structures also fail to sustain male identity and idealism" (p.
For instance: all sonnet-sequences consciously participate in a tradition; but I can think of no example except for Christina Rossetti's Monna Innominata
that so strenuously displays its debts to precursors as to put a pair of epigraphs at the head of every sonnet, essentially disrupting the economy that defines the sonnet form.
In "A Woman of Women for 'A Sonnet of Sonnets': Exploring Female Subjectivity in Christina Rossetti's 'Monna Innominata
,'" Sharon Bickle argues that Rossetti marked "a disjunction between the voice of the poet/translator and the Lady who speaks" (p.
Still, Rossetti's explicit concerns with Jewishness in Seek and Find and with Esther in "Monna Innominata
" do quite clearly show Rossetti complicating the idea of Christian womanhood through representations of Jewishness and poetic identity.