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David Russell, PhD,
Princeton University, English Literature

David Russell gained his PhD in English Literature from Princeton University in 2011. His research and teaching have been supported by the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation and by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University. His book project, A Literary History of Tact: Sociability, Aesthetic Liberalism and the Essay Form, identifies the development of an ethic and aesthetic of tact in nineteenth-century Britain. The meaning of tact travelled in this period from the realm of politesse, and the prerogative of an elite, to the field of politics and an everyday urban sociability. The project credits this development to the experiments in style of the under-studied essay form, and demonstrates how tact emerged in the creative response of romantic essayists to urban modernization. The project challenges current readings of nineteenth-century sociability as an assertion of power relations, proposing instead that tact provided the basis of an "aesthetic liberalism": a speculative and aesthetic response to the question of how people are to live together. In the essays of Matthew Arnold, George Eliot and Walter Pater this liberalism demanded the freedom of a more just distribution of aesthetic experience - the "freedom to see and feel," in Pater's words - in critique of and complement to John Stuart Mill's freedom of procedural conflict and rational consensus. It concludes with a study of the ways in which British psychoanalysis in the twentieth century made use of the literature of tact and incorporated it into their clinical practice. David's second project is called Learning from Experience: Aesthetic Education and Literary Criticism. It examines how the "sage" writing of Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, the poetry of Tennyson, and the novels of George Eliot sought to change their audiences through the experience of reading, and the ways in which this tradition of writing provided a basis for the development of the discipline of literary study, in particular with the work of I.A. Richards.

David has work published or forthcoming in ELH and Raritan. In Fall 2012 he will teach Literature Humanities.

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