DULUTH, MN - Stephanie Johnson, an associate professor in the Department of English at The College of St. Scholastica, will speak about "Christina Rossetti's Ghosts and Victorian Death Culture" at 3:40 p.m. Friday, March 22, in room 4119 of Tower Hall on campus. Admission is free and open to the public.
Johnson's talk is part of a monthly faculty colloquium lecture series developed by St. Scholastica's School of Arts and Letters, highlighting faculty research and creative projects. The presentation will include a 40-minute talk followed by 20 minutes of questions and answers.
As one of the most significant British poets of the 19th century, Christina Rossetti's contemporaries knew her as a devoted Anglican and a prolific writer.
In arguing that Rossetti's Anglo-Catholic beliefs informed even her seemingly secular poetry, Johnson said, some of the most fascinating poems to consider are those in which ghosts appear since they would seem anathema to her faith.
"The ghost poems are fascinating also as creations of a poet who lived and wrote in London during the age of cemetery reform," Johnson said, "when urban gravesites could no longer withstand their overcrowded, unsanitary conditions and when human remains were literally bursting from their confines. Through her ghost poems, Rossetti shapes a theological understanding of the afterlife while responding ambivalently to the materiality of Victorian death culture."
Johnson will discuss how Rossetti's ghostly explorations of death's meaning for the Christian, in tandem with an entertaining of desire for the bodies of the dead who reappear, underscore a tension between the sacred and the secular in the work of even the most devoted of Victorian poets.
The College of St. Scholastica is regularly recognized as one of the finest colleges in the Midwest. The 2013 "America's Best Colleges" survey by U.S. News & World Report magazine ranks St. Scholastica in the top tier of Midwestern universities. The Washington Post has rated St. Scholastica as one of the nation's 100 "hidden gems" among U.S. colleges and universities.