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    Reading Ruskin in the garden: the designed landscape at Brantwood (1871-1900)

    Ikin, Caroline (2019) Reading Ruskin in the garden: the designed landscape at Brantwood (1871-1900). Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    John Ruskin’s garden at Brantwood in the Lake District is an autobiographical synthesis of ideas manifest through landscape, embracing political thinking, artistic aesthetic, floral memory, and a sheltered vision of nature. This thesis explores Ruskin’s garden thematically through the lens of his published works to extrapolate the thinking behind the garden, and is structured around four key texts. Praeterita (1885-89), Ruskin’s autobiography, is a platform for analysing the influence of art, nature, memory and place on his approach to gardening, translating established notions of beauty and the picturesque in his woodland aesthetic. His botanical book, Proserpina (1875-86), offers a framework for examining Ruskin’s idiosyncratic approach to science, and charts his botanical thinking in relation to mythology, morality and cultural concepts. Hortus Inclusus (1887), a collection of letters from Ruskin to his Lakeland neighbour Susanna Beever, presents a platform for discussing the role of gardening friends as inspiration, support and stimulus to Ruskin’s garden-making. The ‘garden enclosed’ of the title prompts analysis of his quest for shelter by interpreting his urge to ‘nest’ and ‘lie down’ in the landscape as a biophilic response to nature. Lastly, Ruskin’s polemical social writing in Fors Clavigera (1871-84) is the springboard to evaluate experiment in the garden, in the repurposing of barren land for cultivation, a practice central to the principles of the Guild of St George. By mapping a biographical study of diaries, correspondence and life writing onto the landscape, this thesis offers a new reading of the garden, addressing the correlation between gardening and writing as an underexplored facet of Ruskin scholarship, and revealing the significance of Ruskin’s garden, garden-making, and gardening friendships to his late works.

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