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Assigned: "The Nature of Gothic" from The Stones of Venice (1432-42) and The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century (1443-51).
"The Nature of Gothic"
1. What are the three kinds of architectural ornament (1434)? How do those three kinds of ornament encapsulate Ruskin's interpretation of history?
2. Why is Gothic (i.e. "constitutional") ornament best suited to the human spirit? What is the value of imperfection in the products of workers' labor?
3. What responsibility does the Victorian consumer bear towards workers? How, in other words, does the consumer fit into Ruskin's moral framework, his scheme for improving life for British workers?
4. How is Ruskin's analysis of British labor relations similar to Carlyle's? How is it different?
5. On 1440, Ruskin mentions Venetian glass production as an example of the kind of work he wants English workers to engage in. How does Ruskin's description of Venetian glass help him explain what is wrong with the British economy, in moral terms?
6. Explain Ruskin's reference to the foxglove plant — how does this plant serve as a "type" or symbol of human life?
"The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century"
10. What are the physical characteristics of the "plague-wind" (1446-47)?
11. Why can't the phenomenon Ruskin describes be measured scientifically? Why does he choose to present his findings in the form of progressive journal entries surrounding by present commentary?
12. Ruskin is one of many prominent Victorian writers (Carlyle among them) who eventually lost his religious faith. What value, then, does the Christian interpretive framework continue to hold for Ruskin in Storm-Cloud?
Edition: Abrams, M. H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vols. 2A-C. 7th ed. New York: Norton, 2000. ISBN 2A = 0393975681, 2B = 039397569X, 2C = 0393975703.