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Building texts and reading fabrics: Metaphor, memory, and material in John Ruskin's 'Stones of Venice'

Kite, Stephen ORCID: 2012. Building texts and reading fabrics: Metaphor, memory, and material in John Ruskin's 'Stones of Venice'. Library Trends 61 (2) , pp. 418-439. 10.1353/lib.2012.0040

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We cannot remember without [architecture], declares John Ruskin (1819-1900) in "The Lamp of Memory" of his The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) (Cook and Wedderburn, 1904, vol. 8, p. 224). For Ruskin, the city is a place of collective memory, a space where buildings are analogized as texts—"the criticism of the building is to be conducted precisely on the same principles as that of a book," he contends (Works, 10: 269). In the evangelical tradition of Ruskin's upbringing, this interpretation of architecture is a kind of lectio divina; a great building is a sacred palimpsest for those who read the fabric with patience and insight. Equally, a text such as the three volumes of his Stones of Venice is endowed with a tectonic in counterform to the city it depicts. Thus, the first volume is constructed from quarry to cornice; Ruskin demands his readers to roll up their sleeves, gives them "stones, and bricks, and straw, chisels and trowels, and the ground, and then asks [them] to build" (Works, 9: 73). In exploring these analogous spaces of text and architecture, this research operates within the empirical and documentary arena of Ruskinian interpretation, working with the primary notebooks, worksheets, and diaries from which the Stones of Venice was constructed. It examines the reciprocity between Ruskin's multiple readings of the urban fabric, the erection of the manuscript of Stones, and the playing out of his intimate physical knowledge of the city in themes of metaphor, memory and material.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Architecture
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
ISSN: 0024-2594
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 10:18

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