"The Nature of Gothic"

  1. What is the context of this chapter? From what book is it an excerpt, and how may Ruskin's discussion of "the gothic" relate to the book's overall structure?
  2. How would you characterize Ruskin's style in "The Nature of Gothic"?
  3. What does he mean by "gothic"? Where does he think this style originated? Is this accurate? Why do you think he ignores the Gothic architecture of central Europe?
  4. What are some features he attributes to the gothic? What does he mean by "savageness," and why do you think he chooses such a term (as opposed, for example, to "imaginative," "original" or "forceful")?
  5. How does he relate his notion of gothicism to modern industrial work?
  6. Explain or define other features of gothic--changefulness, naturalism, grotesqueness, love of vegetation, rigidity, redundance. Do any of these surprise you? Why are they important?
  7. What does Ruskin advocate as good practices for labor and art? Are these practiced in any contexts today?
  8. This is one of the most famous essays of its period--both for its architectural criticism and its social protest. What aspects of his style or mode of address may have made it effective?

Unto This Last

(selection--see longer version in separate file)

  1. What is meant by the title? What is the subject of this essay? Do you expect this from the author of Modern Painters? What may be the connection in Ruskin's mind between art and social wealth?
  2. Towards what audience was this essay directed? How can you tell?
  3. What does Ruskin have against the pseudo-science of political economy? What does he see as the cause of labor unrest? As the appropriate attitude to take toward labor disputes? Would Elizabeth Gaskell have agreed with him?
  4. What analogies or comparisons does he use in describing the relation between master and operative? What is excluded by these comparisons?
  5. What positive suggestions does Ruskin give for improving the condition of workers? What abuses are these intended to correct? Are some of these put into effect today?
  6. What is meant by the sentence in the final paragraph, "All which sounds very strange: the only real strangeness in the matter being, nevertheless, that it should so sound"?