Ruskin on Imagination: A Via Negativa

Natarajan, Uttara. 2017. Ruskin on Imagination: A Via Negativa. Philological Quarterly, 96(3), pp. 373-394. ISSN 0031-7977 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This essay relates Ruskin’s “pathetic fallacy” for the first time to his theory of the ideal as it develops in the course of the early volumes of Modern Painters. Beginning in Modern Painters I with a theory of art centred on the ideal, Ruskin is led, not through a break from, but an intensification of the key emphases of his own theory, to the rejection of idealism in the framing of “pathetic fallacy” in Modern Painters III. Analogous to the via naturaliter negativa, the path through nature to its negation, famously shown in Wordsworth’s poetry by Geoffrey Hartman, in Ruskin we might discern the opposite trajectory, through the ideal to its negation. In the version of realism that arises from that negation, Romantic imagination is superseded by a new emphasis on feeling, and Ruskin’s departure from his Romantic precursors is fully achieved.

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English and Comparative Literature


19 July 2017Accepted
20 December 2017Published

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Date Deposited:

16 Jan 2018 17:32

Last Modified:

24 Mar 2021 15:46

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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