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Although the name of John Ruskin is often mentioned in studies of American cultural life, this work offers the first full-scale evaluation of his dramatic impact on the development of aesthetic and critical thought in this country during the latter half of the nineteenth century. In his preface, Roger Stein states his intention to determine why Americans reacted to Ruskin the way they did, but his essential purpose is to analyze the gradual transformation of the American sensibility. An appreciation of this transformation, he demonstrates, enables one to understand more clearly certain significant issues of nineteenth-century American intellectual history.