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“Grapes for Sale: Reimagining Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market

By Chloe Stelmanis-Cali

In this visual interpretation of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, I’ve chosen to combine multiple aspects of the poem by way of photography and digital media. The process of photography evokes a power dynamic between artist and subject that I believe is reflective of the gaze prominent throughout Rossetti’s poem, specifically between Lizzie and Laura, the goblins, and the reader. As a poem that has been visually interpreted in so many different ways, the gaze, I believe, is an important aspect of Goblin Market’s publication history. Each illustrator employs a gaze upon Goblin Market that renders entirely different interpretations of it. I have been working closely with Laurence Housman’s illustration of Goblin Market. While Housman often depicts Laura and Lizzie covering their faces or looking directly at the goblins, my own interpretation depicts Laura looking directly onto the viewer, gazing back at them. My decision to have Laura looking outward is an attempt at placing the goblins outside the image, where the viewer’s gaze becomes conflated with the goblins, and the viewer becomes as threatening to Laura as the goblins are in Goblin Market.

My goal was to create an image that was highly stylized, futuristic while still reflecting Goblin Market. Further, I wanted my layout to reflect an advertisement, which is why the subjects are in the middle, and surrounded by large, bold font. I included the “Del Monte” logo to emphasize the theme of commodification in Goblin Market, specifically with Rossetti’s conflation of fruit and female sexuality. Similarly, while this ad is implicitly selling “grapes,” I wanted the sexual connotations of this ad to be clear, which is why Laura is eating the grapes so provocatively. I chose to include text that complimented the concept of an advertisement: “Come buy, come buy”, but also text that could be easily read as erotic or sexualized: “sweet to tongue.” My chosen background, both futuristic and biblical, positions Laura and Lizzie in a Garden of Eve like setting, thus reflecting the moralistic elements of Goblin Market. However, its aesthetic is also highly stylized, and reflective of current trends in media, such as Kanye West’s recent controversial music video for his single “Bound 2” (2013). By depicting Goblin Market through such a highly stylized lens, I hope to draw connections between Victorian society and today’s society, specifically in regards to the themes of female sexuality, commodification, capitalism and the gaze.