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“Beautiful, Peaceful, and Fruitful”? (Re)Creating Ruskin’s Utopia in the Wyre Forest

Wielgopolan, Dominika Marta (2019) “Beautiful, Peaceful, and Fruitful”? (Re)Creating Ruskin’s Utopia in the Wyre Forest. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The aim of this thesis is to investigate how John Ruskin’s environmental and communitarian ideas expressed in Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain have been interpreted and applied at Ruskin Land in the Wyre Forest from the nineteenth century to the present. This thesis argues that it has not been possible to recreate Ruskin’s theory, but that elements of his thought have been practiced by his followers there since the nineteenth century in more or less acknowledged ways. The research utilises methodologies from the fields of English literature, history and social sciences. Beginning with a synthesis of Ruskin’s environmental and communitarian thought from Fors Clavigera and a look at its first implementation in Chapter 1, it then quickly moves on to an investigation into how this has been applied on site at Ruskin Land. This is done over two chapters: Chapter 2 focuses at the beginnings of the settlement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and Chapter 3 concentrates on the most recent (2000s-2019), and most environmentally informed activities to date there. The final chapter is an ethnographic case study conducted with the aim of understanding the people who become involved with Ruskin’s Wyre Forest Utopia now and their take on Ruskin, Ruskin Land, and nature. The main thesis is supplemented by an appendix, offering readers the primary data gathered through interviews. This research contributes to Ruskinian scholarship through the (re)telling of the story of his first settlement and by offering a new, interdisciplinary approach to his thought which merges literary and historical studies with social sciences, thus lifting Ruskin out of the library and into the field and confronting his nineteenthcentury thought with twenty-first century reality at Ruskin Land.

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