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Thinking Through StyleNon-Fiction Prose of the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Michael D. Hurley and Marcus Waithe

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198737827

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198737827.001.0001

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Ruskin’s Style of Thought

Ruskin’s Style of Thought

Animating Redescription in the Late Writings

(p.183) 11 Ruskin’s Style of Thought
Thinking Through Style

Marcus Waithe

Oxford University Press

John Ruskin complained of being ‘called a “word painter” instead of a thinker.’ This chapter challenges the basis of that opposition, in claiming that Ruskin’s way of putting things is itself a valuable kind of thought. A resonant case is his reference in Proserpina (1875-86) to ‘the melancholy humour of a root in loving darkness’, where the vitalist idea of ‘vegetable love’ intrudes on botanical convention in a way that isn’t simply ‘purple’. These later tendencies draw on the purportedly systemic methods of the early works, where definition plays a key role in reopening apparently closed views. When Ruskin wants to tell us what a wall is, he indicates that it has ‘purposes in its existence, like an organized creature’, and that its foundation is ‘what the paw is to an animal’ (The Stones of Venice). From first principles of definition, he conjures something not just unexpected, but manifestly rethought.

Keywords:   John Ruskin, vitalism, description, word painting, Proserpina, Love’s Meinie, late writings, style, definition, thinking

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