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TactAesthetic Liberalism and the Essay Form in Nineteenth-Century Britain$
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David Russell

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196923

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196923.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 25 May 2022

Introduction

Introduction

An Art of Handling

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Tact
Author(s):

David Russell

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691196923.003.0001

This introductory chapter outlines some basic claims about tact, the subjects it touches upon, and the way this book is framed. In broadest terms: tact privileges encounters over knowledge, and an aesthetic of handling over more abstract conceptualization or observation—whether of people or objects. Tact can be described as a close and haptic attention to the moment, preferring a present ambivalence to a future perfection. Tact lends itself to political uses just where—in its refusal of assertion—it seems most impertinent to practical ends. It is a literary art that draws upon the particular resources of the essay as form; and it provides the grounds for a claim about the relationship between art and human freedom—an “aesthetic liberalism”—not encompassed by traditional political philosophy. Tact has its origins in a particular time and place, the British nineteenth century, but it is also a more generalizable and available style.

Keywords:   tact, aesthetic liberalism, nineteenth-century Britain, literary art, encounters, human freedom, aesthetic liberalism

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