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CHAPTER 37. John Ruskin

Subject Literature, Religion

Key-Topics Bible

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131605.2009.00037.x


The Christian faith that formed Ruskin's work as a young man broke down as he grew older, but he never stopped reading the Bible. There are few publications among the hundreds he produced in a lifetime of writing in which some form of reference to a biblical text cannot be demonstrated. This much is evident to anyone who turns to his work. What is less apparent is the creative and constantly developing nature of his relations with the Bible. His persistent engagement amounts to more than a legacy of habit from an evangelical childhood, lingering as a husk of piety to be stripped away in order to reveal the genuine thought beneath. It is a sustained source of intellectual energy, not a fixed authority, nor a reassuring envelope of nostalgic allusion. He was a biblical critic in a contentious and often troubled sense, and the place of the Bible in his late writing is fundamentally different from its function in his earlier work. In this he was representative of his generation. Born in 1819, he lived through a period in which the cultural role of the Bible was transformed. He was not the only Victorian writer to find himself compelled to reassess the scriptural authority that had once seemed so secure. But few did so with the rigor that characterized Ruskin's textual scrutiny. The construction of a moral framework whose roots in biblical wisdom could survive the loss of evangelical ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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