GMAT Verbal Practice, Reading Comprehension
Influenced by Evangelical attitudes, art and literature of the nineteenth century were expected to contribute to moral education. Running afoul of that expectation was the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB), which invited the vituperations of reviewers of its day. Being "retrogressive" in a progressive era may be a serious fault, according to Charles Dickens' rhetoric about the art of John Millais; but being "fleshly" and "aesthetic" in an age of moral earnestness may be worse, as D. G. Rossetti, another PRB ringleader, discovered when poet and critic Robert Buchanan attacked him and his work in "The Fleshly School of Poetry" (1871).
However much the PRB had offended the establishment, most of the brothers had insisted on the importance of the arts as moral guides. Yet Rossetti had expressed doubts about art designed to be morally uplifting: the painter-hero of his short story "Hand and Soul" (1850) tries through art to inspire "moral greatness," only to witness his frescoes of Peace spattered by blood shed in a vendetta. And, privileging form at the expense of meaningful content and animal passion at the expense of conventional morality, the poems and Rossetti himself, Buchanan wrote, were "never spiritual, never tender, always self-conscious and aesthetic."
According to the passage, Rossetti's poems
- were criticized by reviewers as not progressive enough
- violated certain aesthetic ideals through their portrayals of violence
- suggested that Rossetti had rejected the tenets of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
- came under attack for their emphasis on form at the expense of substance
- advocated certain behavior which ran contrary to the prevailing morality of the time
The final sentence of the passage indicates that Buchanan (a critic of Rossetti) criticized Rossetti's poems for "privileging form at the expense of meaningful content" — in other words, for stressing form over substance. The correct response is (D).