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RUSKIN'S MEMORIAL LANDSCAPES

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John Ruskin, on significant public occasions in his later life, affirmed the healthiness of the human imagination that found in nature not divine truths, but human histories. He celebrated as a sign of a community's well being, the capacity of the eye to look at landscape with awareness of its (imagined) history. Perceiving the environment in this way was to enter imaginatively into association with one's own society's past and ancestral heritage, and to recognize a meaningful and personally relevant continuum between the present and history. But when writing his own life history, Ruskin realized with regret that he could not fully memorialise his ancestors because he had been 'profanely' indifferent to their history. Aware of the value of a memorial landscape but importantly detached from his own history, Ruskin sensed himself adrift. But the uneasy dislocation he felt here was more than personal: it was culturally suggestive as a pre-echo of the more dramatically deracinated self, detached from history and community, which characterized modernity's notion of selfhood.

Affiliations: 1: School of English, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT UK

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