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The Soul of the Eye and the Words on the Page: Ruskin’s Literary Vision and The King of the Golden River

Scott, Jeremy (2007) The Soul of the Eye and the Words on the Page: Ruskin’s Literary Vision and The King of the Golden River. In: March-Russell, Paul and Casaliggi, Carmen, eds. Ruskin in Perspective: Contemporary Essays. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle. ISBN 1-84718-284-4. (KAR id:3265)

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The study begins with an analysis of the essay ‘Fiction, Fair and Foul’ (1880-1) and the idealised ‘word picture’ of Croxted Lane near Dulwich, fondly remembered from Ruskin’s childhood, with which Ruskin begins that piece. He goes to some lengths to describe the natural beauty of the place, and then compares this bucolic vision with the state of the same area in 1880, when it has become blighted by new housing, light industry and the growth of the railways. Ruskin’s reminiscences here form more than a simple reactionary tirade, though. Certainly, Ruskin mourns the plight of the children growing up in the area now, bemoaning their loss of innocence in a way with which Blake would have greatly sympathised, and the fact that they will no longer be able to explore and learn to understand the natural world as Ruskin himself was able to when growing up in the area. Crucially, however, he connects the dearth of this kind of experience amongst the children of contemporary London to a stunting or even truncation of imaginative growth, further reinforcing a perennial theme of his work: that exercising the young imagination is one of the most valuable purposes of all art. Secondly, he goes on to contend that much modern fiction, with the notable exception of Scott, limits itself to an ugliness of the subject-matter, to sensationalism and to a willingness to deal with ‘low’ subjects. He appears to suggest that this trend is, in part, the result of the erosion of natural landscapes. Industrialisation and urban creep become linked with a paucity of the creative spirit. Conversely, to develop the human imagination is also to develop the human mind.

This study, then, will attempt to demonstrate how Ruskin’s particularly moral vision of beauty finds expression in The King of the Golden River by examining the ‘word painting’ of landscape in it and by comparing this portrayal directly to the ideas expressed in the essay ‘Fiction, Fair and Foul’(1880-1). It will also draw on Ruskin’s ideas about the literary fairy tale as an expression of the childlike imagination, and the importance he attached to this facility.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: Ruskin, Romanticism, Fictional Technique, 'The King of the Golden River', Word Painting
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English philology and language
P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Jeremy Scott
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2008 16:48 UTC
Last Modified: 28 May 2019 13:38 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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