What do the writings of John Ruskin (1819–1900), a Victorian-era critic of art and society, have to offer us in this age of suspicion, partisanship, doubts about even the possibility of civic public debate, and fears of “fake news” across the political spectrum? Amy Woodson-Boulton will argue that Ruskin’s ideas allow us to consider moral and aesthetic questions together in a way that is, not coincidentally, extremely well suited to our current politics. Writing at the height of liberalism and laissez-faire political economics, Ruskin advocated for a society that would put human well-being first, ahead of simple measures of wealth or productivity. In truth, much of the underlying logic of Ruskin’s period looks similar to our own time of austerity, rapacious free market capitalism, and neoliberalism. Ruskin’s perspective gives us a profound means of understanding not only that logic, but also how people have resisted it, finding new ways to relate to each other, to the economy, and to the natural world. Amy Woodson-Boulton is associate professor of British and Irish history at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Her work concentrates on cultural reactions to industrialization, particularly in regard to the history of art museums, the social role of art, and the changing status and meaning of art and nature in modern society. She has written extensively on Victorian-era art, and especially on John Ruskin’s impact on it. This event is free and open to the public.
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