In Ruskin's lecture on an architectural design for a local stock market, readers find language, which would be fit for a sermon. Ruskin criticizes his audience like a minister assessing his congregation for its wrong-doings. As a twenty-first reader, I found his themes still relevant to modern life, since they were based on some biblical concepts, which are the basis for parts of western civilization. Ruskin urges his audience to treat the Earth right.

It is a long since you built a great cathedral; and how you would laugh at me if I proposed building a cathedral on the top of one of these hills of yours, to make it an Acropolis! But your railroad mounds, vaster than the walls of Babylon; your railroad station, vaster than the temple of Ephesus, and innumerable; your chimneys, how much more mighty and costly than cathedral spires! Your harbour-piers; your warehouses; your exchanges!-all these are built to your great Goddess of 'Getting-on': and she has formed, and will continue to form, your architecture, as long as you worship her; and it is quite vain to ask me to tell you how to build to her; you know far better than I.

Questions

1. Because Ruskin uses so many references to ancient religions, the audience may see Ruskin's thought steeped in historical education. Is Ruskin's juxtaposition of ancient beliefs with modern issues a way of teaching his audience about the past or is it solely to comment on the wrongs of today?

2. I am not aware if the term "getting-on" was a colloquial phrase during Ruskin's time. If it is a common phrase then does Ruskin intend to use such colloquialism in the same sentences as rich historical/social commentary for a specific reason? Does the interplay of direct simple language with complex analysis serve multiple purposes?

3. When Ruskin continually treats the audience as an Other, using the word "you," in this passage and when he comments about their spending habits, does Because Ruskin uses so many references to ancient religions, the he want to place himself in a higher position? Although he says he does not know as well as his audience to please the "Goddess of Getting-on" with architectural designs, is he attempting to say that this is not the aim of true architecture?

4. A Ruskin comments that the railroads, chimneys, harbours, warehouses, and exchanges are temples to the capitalist society of Britain. He uses religion to capture the fervor that his audience has for making money and having financial progress. By alienating his audience in this passage, does Ruskin make for a more effective conclusion, when he states that the audience has the power to change or does the audience see him as having contradictory positions?


Victorian Overview John Ruskin Leading Questions

Last modified 1 October 2003