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Durham University

Department of English Studies


Academic Staff

Publication details for Dr Peter Garratt

Garratt, Peter (2016). Romantic Refractions: Light Effects in Ruskin's Poetry. Romanticism 22(3): 279-288.

Author(s) from Durham


The poetry of John Ruskin – which amounts to a surprisingly large body of work, mostly written in the 1830s and 1840s – reveals the stirrings of the moral perceptual attitude that would emerge with such distinctive force in Modern Painters, yet one guided by the influences of Keats, Shelley and Byron as much as the natural theology of Wordsworth (despite Modern Painters taking its epigraph from The Excursion). Although in some respects a poetry of post-Romantic transition, Ruskin's work also demonstrates a consistent interest in light – in ways that affirm its imaginative commerce with second-generation Romanticism – while exploring light's physical properties and dynamic environmental effects. Focusing in particular on his prize-winning poem ‘Salsette and Elephanta’ (1839), I suggest that Ruskin's poems establish possibilities that reach beyond merely received metaphorical meanings (light as redemptive telos and/or abstract condition of the visible) and instead look forward to the overdetermined stylisations typical of his mature prose works.

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