Nature's Covenant: Figures of Landscape in Ruskin (Penn State University Press, 1992)


This book is, essentially, a reading of the works of John Ruskin, including his neglected poems and early prose writings. In it I tried to bring about a fresh awareness of his career as an interpreter of landscape, and to conceive of landscape as a filter of human meaning, a resourceful and varying construction of social, aesthetic and theological significance. The book studies the correlation in Ruskin's work between the Reformed theology of his religious tradition and the Romantic poetics of literature that he sought to practice over a very long and eventful life. I tried here to reconstruct the particular hermeneutic of landscape that Ruskin developed, a vision of the natural world that depended equally upon an Romantic/evangelical renovation of heart and eye and a remarkable articulation of the typology of nature. Ruskin's own theoria., or contemplation of nature's text, the full-scale development of which takes place in Modern Painters II, is revealed and explored, inviting renewed understanding of works in his canon both early and late, especially of certain chapters of such often neglected works as Fors Clavigera, St. Mark's Rest, and Deucalion. In reading his childhood sermons, in particular, and in attempting to connect his early religious training with his reading of the sacred meanings of natural scenes, I hoped here to turn away from the too habitual secular responses to his work, and by recovering the actual text of his manuscript Diaries, to regain the lost theological emphasis of his critical writing. But I would not wish to emphasize unduly this religious element, for in my commitment to considering his faith within the circle of his romantic influences, Nature's Covenant is also a book about Victorian romanticism, sharing in the current revaluation of Wordsworth's later career, and in renewed scholarly attention to Sir Walter Scott.

Table of Contents:

Introduction***** 1. The House of the Interpreter *****2. The Word and the Church
3. The Poetry of Nature *****4. A Fellowship of Blindness *****5. The Covenant of Life
6. Heavenly Hopes*****
Conclusion: The Typology of Atonement

A selected list of my publications and presentations related to this work:

"Ruskin's Remains: Archive, Text, and Autobiography,"
for the session, Bibliography and Textual Criticism,
SCMLA, San Antonio, Texas, 2 November 1996

"Representing Ruskin," Keynote Address, John Ruskin and Victorian
Culture, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, 10-12 October 1996

"'Types and Prophecies of the Old Testament': A Critical Introduction
to Dr. Pusey's Manuscript," Fellows Lecture, Pusey House,
Oxford, 6 May 1991.

"Christographia: The Victorian Typology of the Atonement,"
Fellows Lecture, Pusey House, Oxford, 29 April 1991

"Criticism and Prophecy," Christianity and Literature,
39 (Spring 1990): 283-92.

"Bunyan Among the Victorians: Macaulay, Froude,Ruskin,"
Literature and Theology, 3 (March 1989): 77-94.

"Bunyan and 19th-Century Evangelical Theology," for the conference,
Bunyan and Puritanism, Centre for the Study of Literature and Theology,
University of Durham, 16-18 March 1988.

"Hermeneutic and Aporia: Beyond Formalism Once More,"
Christianity and Literature, 38 (Fall 1988): 5-17.

"Scott, Ruskin, and the Landscape of Autobiography,"
Studies in Romanticism, 26 (Winter 1987): 549-72.

"Ruskin, Darwin, and The Crisis of Natural Forms,"
Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens: Revue du Centre d'Etudes
et de Recherches Victoriennes et Edouardiennes
,
No. 25 (April 1987): 7-24.

"The Structure of Ruskin's Fors Clavigera," Prose Studies,
9 (December 1986): 71-85.

"Ruskin's Apocalypse," The Arnoldian, 13 (Winter 1985/1986) pp. 33-41;
(reviewing Raymond E. Fitch, The Poisoned Sky: Myth and Apocalypse
in Ruskin [1982]).

"Hunting Ruskin," The Arnoldian, 12 (Fall 1984), pp. 46-51;
(reviewing John Dixon Hunt, The Wider Sea: A Life of John Ruskin [
[1982], and The Ruskin Polygon: Essays on the Imagination
of John Ruskin
, eds. Hunt and Holland [1982]).

"Ruskin in His Time," The Arnoldian: A Review of Mid-Victorian
Culture, 10 (Spring 1983), pp.69-73; (reviewing New Approaches
to Ruskin
, ed. Robert Hewison [1981]).

 

Follow these links to additional resources:

Photographs of John Ruskin (under construction)

Ruskin on the Victorian Web

Ruskin Foundation, Lancaster University

Ruskin's Home at Brantwood

Cambridge University Press CD-Rom edition of Ruskin's Complete Works