John Ruskin

Stones of Venice (1851-3)

Nature of the Gothic: The Gothic not defined by any single feature, but according to the relationship between features. He gives six categories, the removal of the majority of which will result in the edifice not being gothic (but what about half, one wonders?):

  1. Savageness
  2. Changefulness
  3. Naturalism
  4. Grotesqueness
  5. Rigidity
  6. Redundance

He performs the mode of seeing the whole in all of its parts in relation by doing a virtual bird’s eye tour of Europe, past and present. There is a carelessness of spectatorship that matches the carelessness, the savageness of the mode of construction:

Let us stnad by him when with rough strength and hurried stroke, he smites an uncouth animation out of the rocks which he has torn from among the moss of the moorland, and heaves into the darkened air the pile of iron buttress and rugged wall, instinct with work of an imagination as wild an wayward as the northern sea. (174)

The idea is that there is a freedom granted to this crude workmen: the gothic recognizes even in small things, the value of the individual soul. The Gothic is constituted by imperfect fragments united into a coherent whole. It is, in other words, a political genre of architecture. Rusking even admits that such perfection (the perfection of imperfection) requires waste: it’s the cost of freedom. He comes out with his aesthetic dictum: “No good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of the misunderstanding of the ends of art” (183).

We can also seen in his description of active rigidity and particularly Adornian moment:

the peculiar energy which gives tension to movement, and stiffness to resistance, which makes the fiercest lightning forked rather than curved, and the stoutest oak-branch angular rather than bending, and is as much seen in the quivering of the lance as in the glittering of the icicle. (194)

In other words, an erect penis.


Modern Painters (1860)

Definition of the Greatness of Art: that which conveys the greatest number of the greatest ideas to the spectator. A strange adoption of utilitarian language–a system that he elsewhere severely critiques, such as in Unto this Last. Contrast this to Pater: Ruskin is not into pleasure, and that’s why it’s absent from this definition: Pater in Renaissance lifts from Hegel (spirit in sensuous form) and adds Hellenistic, sensuous pleasure…and this is a reaction against Ruskin, Newman, Carlyle.

Pathetic Fallacy: Ruskin argues that this fallacy originates in the artistic mind that is too weak to control emotions. So there are three types of artist: the one sees but does not feel; the one who feels and therefore cannot see correctly; the one who sees correctly despite his feelings. However, Ruskin goes on to argue that when the fact becomes so great…it must disorder the senses of the poet. Not that language becomes insufficient to the event, but a disordered form of language becomes appropriate….BUT, NO event is beyond language…This is therefore a fourth type, but really only different in degree from the second type. Ruskin’s essays often mark out these numerical categories and then go about frustrating them.

Unto this Last (1860)

Mill is an idiot….rips apart political economy, just to say that this could work, yes, but you are forgetting that you do not always have to do things according to material interest, wants to posit moral sphere with vantages from which you can determine interest outside of material necessity…


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