"Sesame and Lilies" by John Ruskin

Sesame and Lilies John Ruskin, Deborah Epstein Nord

Rethinking the Western Tradition
Publication date:
11 Aug 2002
Yale University Press
240 pages: 210 x 140mm
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 John Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies, first published in 1865, stands as a classic nineteenth-century statement on the natures and duties of men and women. Although widely popular in its time, the work in its entirety has been out of print since the early twentieth century. This volume returns Sesame and Lilies to easy availability and reunites the two halves of the work: Of Kings’ Treasuries, in which Ruskin critiques Victorian manhood, and Of Queens’ Gardens, in which he counsels women to take their places as the moral guides of men and urges the parents of girls to educate them to this end.

Feminist critics of the 1960s and 1970s regarded Of Queens’ Gardens as an exemplary expression of repressive Victorian ideas about femininity, and they paired it with John Stuart Mill’s more progressive Subjection of Women. This volume, by including the often ignored Of Kings’ Treasuries, offers readers full access to Ruskin’s complex and sometimes contradictory views on men and women. The accompanying essays place Sesame and Lilies within historical debates on men, women, culture, and the family. Elizabeth Helsinger examines the text as a meditation on the pleasures of reading, Seth Koven gives a wide-ranging account of how Victorians read Sesame and Lilies, and Jan Marsh situates the work within controversies over educational reform.

Deborah Epstein Nord is professor of English and director of the Program in the Study of Women and Gender at Princeton University.

"This edition of Sesame and Lilies has . . . rendered a valuable service. . . . Excellent critical essays."?Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"In offering both lectures, this edition of Sesame and Lilies has already rendered a valuable service. . . . Impassioned, protean, and richly suggestive, Ruskin?s voluminous body of work was vastly and variedly influential. . . . To read Ruskin in the open and imaginative spirit with which he himself urged readers to approach great books is to realize that his writings will survive any number of shifts in intellectual fashion."?Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times Book Review