In his essay, "Traffic," John Ruskin professes indicates to his audience that they are going to get much more than a dissertation about the architecture of the exchange, quoting critics' insistence that "we need no sermons, even were you able to preach them, which may be doubted."
He continues with what I will call his "sermon on taste as a signifier of moral values," relating taste, specifically architecture, and religion. Repeated references to hell, paganism, idolatry, other religious imagery and allusions dominate the essay.
The rest is silence. Last words of the chief wisdom of the heathen, spoken fo this idol of riches; this idol of yours; this golden image, high by measureless cubits set up where your green fields are furnace burnt into the likeness of the plain of dura ... Continue to make that forbidden deity your principal one, and soon no more aret, no more science, no more pleasure will be possible. Catastrophe will come; or worse than catastrophe, slow mouldering and withering into Hades. [p. 249]
If, by 1858, Ruskin had lost his faith in evangelical Protestantism, why do biblical references and language pervade his 1864 speech?
Is this an effective rhetorical device for getting the "sinners" to change their wicked ways, or at least pay attention to his speech?
Or does Ruskin mean the use of this language in a highly ironic sense?
If Ruskin does not believe, does this rhetorical dishonesty undermine the effectiveness of his speech?
Last modified 28 February 2002