The Ruskin Birthday Lecture

Ruskin Birthday Poster 2022

On February 7-8, 2020, we hosted at Notre Dame the conference John Ruskin: Prophet of the Anthropocene, the very last event in a year of international celebrations of Ruskin's 200th birthday. On the evening of February 8, Ruskin's 201st birthday, Clive Wilmer, who had just stepped down at the end of a long tenure as Master of Ruskin's Guild of St George, delivered a keynote address, reflecting on the role of the Guild in the world.

Clive's lecture launched a new annual Ruskin Birthday Lecture Series at Notre Dame, in which an invited speaker would reflect on the role of the arts and humanities to address the crises of the day -- in the spirit of Ruskin, at least, if not always about Ruskin.

Our second speaker, on February 8, 2021, was to be Gabriel Meyer, executive director of the Ruskin Art Club in Los Angeles. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that none of us saw coming as we started planning the lecture in February 2020, meant that we were unable to hold the lecture that year. So, we are delighted that, in honor of Ruskin's 203rd birthday, Gabriel will at last be joining us at Notre Dame in person.

Poet-journalist Gabriel Meyer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has lived and worked throughout the Middle East, the Balkans, and East Africa. He was especially acclaimed for his coverage of the first Palestinian intifada and of the Bosnian war. His reporter’s diary on the civil war in Sudan, War and Faith in Sudan (Eerdmans), won ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year award for essays in 2006. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his work as a journalist by the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at UC Berkeley in 2017. He has published poetry and two novels; a large-scale nonfiction work, The Testimony of Stones, a “biography” of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, is awaiting publication. He had been involved with the historic Ruskin Art Club since 1998 and currently serves as its executive director. His essay “Ruskin and the California Dream” will appear shortly in the Ruskin Review (Lancaster University, UK). He is a Companion of the Guild of St. George.

In his lecture, Gabriel will reflect on correspondences between Pope Francis’s vision of “an integral ecology” in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, and nineteenth-century proto-environmentalist John Ruskin’s radical critique of modernity’s approach to the natural world. The lecture will also ask, with both thinkers, whether the environmental challenges we face are not fundamentally crises of the spirit, their deeper solutions to be found in what Pope Francis calls “ecological conversion” and Ruskin the embrace of “the sufficient life.”

The lecture will take place on February 8, 2022, at 5 p.m., in the Oak Room of the South Dining Hall, followed by a reception (university COVID precautions permitting). Gabriel will be introduced by Prof. Jennifer Newsome Martin (Theology and PLS), who will also moderate the conversation afterwards.

The event will also be live-streamed; details to follow soon.