The Pre-Raphaelite Body: Fear and Desire in Painting, Poetry, and Criticism

Synopsis

Pre-Raphaelitism was the first avant-garde movement in Britain. It shocked its first audience, and as it modulated into Aestheticism it continued to disturb the British public. In this fresh and original study, Professor Bullen traces the sources of that shock to the representation of the human body. By examining the discourses which were developed to denounce or to explain the new art forms he shows that the distorted, maimed, or eroticized body formed the principal focus of anxiety in nineteenth-century criticism. Using a truly interdisciplinary method he relates the painting of Millais and other early Pre-Raphaelites to fears about cholera and Catholicism; he demonstrates how the body of the sexualized female became an object of obsessive fascination in the painting and poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris; he locates the writing of Swinburne and Prater in the context of the debate over the `Woman Question', and he shows how the responses to the `Aesthetic' painting of Burne-Jones were conditioned by the sexual psychopathology of mid nineteenth-century mental science.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Oxford
Publication year:
  • 1998