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Love and Justice: John Ruskin’s Theory and Practice of Charity

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posted on 08.07.2021, 11:12 authored by Mai Tsumura
John Ruskin was a philanthropist as well as a critic, both activities informed by strong moral principles. Ruskin’s charity was extensive in its form and type of beneficiaries, ranging from donations of material objects, such as drawings and mineral specimens, to schools to financial support for his pupils and friends. Ruskin scholarship has presented many different aspects of Ruskin’s charitable mind and practice, yet his practice is nonetheless always treated as a partial aspect of the life of the polymath. This thesis takes Ruskin’s charity as its research focus and aims to draw an integrated and broader picture of his particular approach to charity through an investigation of the ideas, motives and dynamism of his activities. It also hopes to depict Ruskin’s complexity and fluidity in his approach to charity, emotions and human relationships.
The thesis uses several methods to achieve its objectives. First of all, Ruskin’s primary texts are analyzed in order to dig more deeply into his theoretical understanding of charity. These are contextualized against his religious and family background, to show how both underpin the shaping and reshaping of his ideas. Subsequent chapters then take the form of case studies, to explore Ruskin’s application of theory to practice. Each case study casts a light on different periods, modes and interests of Ruskin’s life, for example, by analyzing letters exchanged between him and his beneficiaries, which vividly illustrates the dynamism of Ruskin’s charitable practice and relationships. In so doing, this thesis will advance our understanding of Ruskin’s theory and practice of charity in a long history from the nineteenth century through to the present day: Ruskinian charitable enterprises are now flourishing worldwide, within and outside the UK, as Ruskin’s legacy.



Felicity James

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School of English

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University of Leicester

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