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The Practical Ruskin: Economics and Audience in the Late Work
     

The Practical Ruskin: Economics and Audience in the Late Work

by Linda Marilyn Austin
 

In the first full-length study centered on Ruskin's late work, Linda Austin explores the ways an implicit economic theory operates in writings on the fine arts and literature. Examining cultural "texts" such as Ruskin's museum, publishing experiments, and educational proposals in addition to various essays and university lectures, she defines an "economic discourse

Overview

In the first full-length study centered on Ruskin's late work, Linda Austin explores the ways an implicit economic theory operates in writings on the fine arts and literature. Examining cultural "texts" such as Ruskin's museum, publishing experiments, and educational proposals in addition to various essays and university lectures, she defines an "economic discourse" in Ruskin's writing--a set of beliefs that he internalized from traditional and current economic theory.

Arguing that this discourse implicates Ruskin in the very commercial structures he spent the best part of his career attacking, Austin shows how Ruskin washimself caught up in a commodity economy and how his theory of art was significantly modified by his conception of exchange. According to Austin, two tenets shaped Ruskin's beliefs: the labor theory of value articulated by Ricardo early in the century and the theories of exchange value and marginal utility advanced by Marx, Jevons, and others in the second half of the century. Ruskin accepted these ideas, she contends, largely because of his awareness of an expanding middle- and working-class audience for both his own work and popular art in general.

From descriptions of paintings, coins, landscapes, and sundry comments, Austin assembles an economic model that explains much of what Ruskin says in his university lectures and letters to laborers. With his conceptions of money and labor and his materialistic idea of meaning, Austin concludes, Ruskin tried to reach a mass audience. Ironically, the very presence of this mass audience, as well as Ruskin's implicit belief in exchange value, threatened his authority as a critic and caused him to recoilfrom the very readers he was trying to reach.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801841620
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
06/28/1991
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 8.76(h) x 0.99(d)

Meet the Author

Linda M. Austin is associate professor of English at Oklahoma State University.

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