Celebrate Houghton Library's Latest Major Exhibition

Join us for the opening of Victorian Visionary: John Ruskin and the Realization of the Ideal. The evening starts with a lecture on Ruskin's educational ideals by Sara Atwood, and continues with a viewing of the exhibition and reception at Houghton Library. 

Lecture: Lamont Library, Forum Room, 5.30 PM

Exhibition Viewing and Reception: Houghton Library, Edison and Newman Room, 6.30 PM

"The things that lead to life:" Ruskin the Educator 

A gifted polymath, John Ruskin was many things—prominent and influential art critic, controversial social critic, gifted artist, amateur geologist, botanist, etymologist, and mythologist—but he was above all a teacher. Ruskin maintained that education means ‘leading human souls to what is best, and making what is best out of them” (11.261). He believed that education should transform not only the individual, but the community. Rejecting nineteenth-century materialism, laissez-faire economics, and industrial degradation, Ruskin envisioned an educational program that would cultivate men and women governed by affection and fellowship and well-fitted to work towards a better world. “You do not educate a man by telling him what he knew not,” he assures us, “but by making him what he was not” (17.232). As my lecture will show, Ruskin’s educational ideals, simultaneously progressive and rooted in tradition, suggested an alternative to contemporary principles and practice. There remains much we might learn from them today. 

About the speaker

Sara Atwood’s work has appeared in The Ruskin Review and Bulletin, Nineteenth-Century Prose, The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, and Carlyle Studies Annual. Her book, Ruskin’s Educational Ideals, was published by Ashgate in 2011. She is a contributor to the Yale University Press edition of Carlyle’s On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in History (2013), Teaching Victorian Literature in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave 2017) and John Ruskin and Nineteenth-Century Education (Anthem Press 2018). She has lectured widely on Ruskin, both in the US and abroad, focusing particularly on education, the environment, and language. She is a Companion of the Guild of St. George and editor of its annual journal, The Companion. Dr. Atwood lives in Oregon, where she is an adjunct lecturer in English literature and writing at Portland State University and Portland Community College. 

Visit Ruskin 200 for details on the international program of events in celebration of the bicentenary of Ruskin's birth.


  • Education