The Science and Art of Atmosphere

The next session of the reading group will be on Monday 20 April at 6.00 – 7.30 pm at the Lit and Phil Library in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Everyone is welcome. Refreshments will be provided.

Dr Peter Garratt, Lecturer in English Literature, Durham University, will introduce the following papers:

John Ruskin, ‘Of Truth of Clouds’, Modern Painters 1 (1843);

Mary Jacobus, ‘Cloud Studies: The Visible Invisible’, Gramma: Journal of Critical Studies 14 (2006): 219-247. Reprinted as chapter 1 of her recent book, Romantic Things: A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud (Chicago, 2012).

Clouds turn the eye upwards towards the indeterminate, towards the gathering possibility of structure and form (substance on the verge of formalization or singular structuration). Clouds trouble and fascinate early nineteenth-century aesthetic and scientific observational practices: as Mary Jacobus points out, they ‘paradoxically serve to abolish the representational realm altogether’. The cloud, in its substanceless bearing that somehow combines lightness and weight, signals mood, omen, prophecy, delight, sublimity, while challenging ‘the phenomenology of the visible’ itself. These two readings, from Jacobus and Ruskin, elaborate upon the difficult pleasures of cloud-gazing in relation to a range of writers and painters including Turner, Constable, Wordsworth, Shelley, and John Clare.

Modern Painters Clouds

Mary Jacobus

For further information please contact Pat Beesley at



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