Sitting in the same church where Christina Rossetti once worshipped, Dr. Karen Dieleman, then a Ph.D. candidate, contemplated how this Victorian woman’s worship experiences may have affected her development as a poet.
Dieleman, associate professor of English at Trinity, spent a total of six years researching Rossetti, as well as poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Adelaide Procter. Her research of these participants in their respective Anglican, Nonconformist, and Catholic strands of Christianity culminated in the recent publication of her book Religious Imaginaries by Ohio University Press (2012).
In the book, Dieleman explores the relationships between each woman’s commitment to a particular liturgical practice and the development of poetic voice.
Dieleman’s visits to England relate directly to her current method of teaching and scholarship, namely her love of context. In addition to visiting two of the poets’ places of worship during the first three years of research, she traveled to Cambridge’s Girton College, the first college for women, to further study Procter.
The next three years of research required expanded reading and writing to fit the work into the larger field of Victorian poetry studies and within current thinking on human formation. Dieleman earned her Ph.D. from McMaster University in Ontario in 2006 and joined the Trinity faculty in 2008.
Religious Imaginaries will especially appeal to scholars and upper level college students, and for Dieleman, has been an intellectual project that has overlapped with her own Reformed tradition.
“I prayed a lot over the work,” said Dieleman. “I don’t need to make a splash in the world but have strived to be faithful and to honor these women.”