Lost Saints: Silence, Gender, and Victorian Literary Canonization

Front Cover
University of Virginia Press, 1996 - Literary Criticism - 243 pages
In Lost Saints Tricia Lootens argues that parallels between literary and religious canons are far deeper than has yet been realized. She presents the ideological underpinnings of Victorian literary canonization and the general processes by which it occurred and discloses the unacknowledged traces of canonization at work today. Literary legends have accorded canonicity to women writers such as Felicia Hemans, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Christina Rossetti, she contends, but often at the cost of discounting their claims as serious poets. "Saint Shakespeare", midcentury "Woman-Worship", and "Shakespeare's Heroines" provide three focal points for analysis of how nineteenth-century criticism turned the discourse of religious sanctity to literary ends. Literary secular sanctity could transform conflicts inherent in religious canonization, but it could not transcend them. Even as they parody the lives of the saints, nineteenth-century lives of the poets reinscribe old associations of reverence with censorship. They also carry long-standing struggles over femininity and sanctity into new, highly charged secular contexts. Through case studies of the canonization of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti, Lootens demonstrates how nineteenth-century literary legends simultaneously glorified women poets and opened the way for critical neglect of their work. The author draws on a wide range of sources: histories of literature, religion, and art; medieval studies and folklore; and nineteenth-century poetry, essays, conduct books, textbooks, and novels.


Statues Saints and Silence
Shakespeares Heroines

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1996)

Tricia Lootens is Associate Professor of English at the University of Georgia.

Bibliographic information