Jeremy Melius: Idolatrous Ruskin
Jeremy Melius, Tufts University, will give a lecture that revisits the relationship between the Victorian critic John Ruskin and his disciple and translator Marcel Proust in order to rethink key aspects of Ruskin’s investment in the durational intensity of works of art. Proust enables us to trace in Ruskin a poetics of the artifactual encounter: a mode of thinking centered on “an object other than itself,” and therefore “materialized in space,” as Proust puts it, “scattered here and there over the surface of the earth.” Ruskin, meanwhile, helps us to see in Proust new forms of attention to the made-ness of things—to a density of substance and meaning that inhabits cultural objects and cannot be fully subsumed into the phantasmagoria of thought. Bringing them together, the lecture wagers, might shed new light on the nineteenth century’s fixation on the materiality of history, as well as on both writers’ belief in the power of language to grasp and restage a phenomenal world that is always slipping away.
Presented by the Department of Art History as part of the 2017/18 Smart lecture series supported by the Smart Family Foundation.