In Lost Saints Tricia Lootens argues that parallels betwee literary and religious canons are far deeper than has yet been realized. She presents the ideological underpinnings of Victorian literary canonization and the general processes by which it occurred and discloses the unacknowledged traces of canonization at work today. Literary legends have accorded canonicity to women writers such as Felicia Hemans, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Christina Rossetti, she contends, but often at the cost of discounting their claims as serious poets.

Through case studies of the canonization of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti, Lootens demonstrates how nineteenth-century literary legends simultaneously glorified women poets and opened the way for critical neglect of their work. The author draws on a wide range of sources: histories of literature, religion, and art; medieval studies and folklore; and nineteenth-century poetry, essays, conduct books, textbooks, and novels.