Christina Rossetti: Poems

Body as Commodity: Gendered Markets in Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” College

Thomas Richards, in his 1990 critical exposition, The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle, 1851-1914, states: “In the mid-nineteenth century the commodity became the living letter of the law of supply and demand. It literally came alive.”(Richards, 2) The “commodity” adopts a corporeal cling to Victorian society in the form of the female body, as proposed in Christina Rossetti’s 1862 poem, Goblin Market. The story of Lizzie and Laura’s venture into goblin territory, or rather, male-dominated economic territory, marks a feminine intervention into the capitalist system; similarly, Rossetti’s female authorship attempts to venture into the masculine field of literary economy. The economy of writing in the height of the Victorian era, as explored in Richards’s text, misrepresented female writers severely and instead subjugated women to literary commodities.

This subjugation is visible in the poem, as Laura and Lizzie possess little agency in the marketplace of the goblins. In consultation with Helen Cixous’s 1975 essay The Laugh of the Medusa, the women, both Rossetti and her fictitious counterparts, can be examined as early examples of women ‘writing’ themselves into the social sphere in order to...

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