Rossetti's weak apocalypse
The meaning of the Book of Revelation as a prophecy of destruction, mutation, and drought leading to a burnt-out world in which there is ‘no more sea’ (21. 1) is a powerful one in nineteenth-century literature. For Christina Rossetti, the resonances of its catastrophic rhetoric helped her to make sense of that by which she was most troubled in the world—inequality, poverty, environmental collapse, and what she called the ‘horror’ of vivisection. It also suggests that for her, the meaning of grace is only fully and finally revealed in the aeonic time of the new creation, helps resolve the apparent paradox Christians experience in resignedly waiting for the same Second Advent John describes as imminent.
Continuing the theme of Apocalypse from the Ruskin Seminar on 3rd May, Professor Mason will discuss Rossetti’s reading of grace as the basis of a new kind of post-apocalyptic and inclusive being that confronts the terror associated with Revelation with weakness and patience. In her response, Dr Carruthers will draw on the thread of patience in Professor Mason’s paper to consider how Rossetti and other writers rethought what Elizabeth Gaskell calls a ‘beautiful patience’ in Mary Barton, an active patience that characterizes ‘fellow-creaturely sympathy’.