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Prof David Russell - new book published

The social practice of tact was invented in the nineteenth century - just when Britain was experiencing unprecedented urbanization, industrialization and population growth. In a time when people lived more closely than ever before with people they knew less and less about, tact was a new mode of feeling one's way with others in complex modern conditions. In my book, I trace how the style of the essay came to exemplify this new ethic and aesthetic. 

Tact show how essays - by Charles Lamb, J.S Mill, Matthew Arnold, George Eliot and Walter Pater - perform tact. For these writers, tact is not about codes of politeness, but making an art of ordinary encounters between people and evoking the fullest potential in each new encounter - whether in education, in politics, or just bumping into someone in the street. As the book unfolds, essays in tact become the basis for thinking about liberalism (that is, the question of how different people are to live together). In its last chapter, the book traces the legacy of tact in the a distinctly British style of psychotherapy in the twentieth-century, in the work of Marion Milner and DW Winnicott. 

More information is available on Princeton University Press.

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