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A L ITERA RY HI STORY OF TACT: SOCI AB ILIT Y, AE STHETI C LIBERAL I SM AND THE ESS A Y FORM IN NI NETEENTHCE NT U RY B RIT AI N

A DI S SE RT AT IO N PRESE NTE D TO THE FACULT Y OF PRI NCETON UNI VE RS IT Y I N CA N DI DA C Y FOR THE DEGREE OF

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DO CTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

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David James Ru s sell

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A Literary History of Tact: Sociability, Aesthetic Liberalism and the Essay Form in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Abstract

This study describes, for the first time, the development of an ethic and aesthetic of tact

evaluate the assumptions and methods of the study of nineteenth-century sociability; to provide and explicate an aesthetic basis for a theory of liberalism; and to make a case for the cultural centrality and distinctive formal techniques of the under-studied essay form. Tact as a social practice is an invention of the nineteenth century. In 1814, an article in the British Critic deemed tact a cant word of the present day; by the middle of the century, it had been fully incorporated into everyday language. The sense of the word moved from politesse to politics; no longer the prerogative of an elite, it became the basis of a democratic sociability. Tact is a literary style. I show how the post Johnsonian, post Addisonian essay performs the practice of tact and, in the process, I make the case for the cultural centrality of this under-studied genre. It is a style that responds to the periods mounting social pressures: to urbanization, industrialization, population growth and political reform. At a time when people were living in closer proximity than ever before, and among ever more different people, tactful essays proposed a new mode of feeling ones way in society. They did this by insisting on the recognition of the sensuous aesthetic experience of every social subject. The romantic essayists first raised this iii

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in nineteenth-century Britain. It pursues three main aims through this description: to re-

insistence, and their experiential ethos formed the basis of an aesthetic liberalism in the nineteenth century, in the work of Matthew Arnold and Walter Pater. Aesthetic liberalism sought both to complement and to challenge what Stefan Collini has termed the manly liberalism of procedural conflict and rational consensus associated with the work of John Stuart Mill. The essay provides a fresh approach to nineteenth-century sociability because it does not, like a novel, represent society mimetically, but rather performs tact as a relational mode that responds to the ethical, aesthetic and political demands of modern

suspicion and challenges the conventional wisdom that the study of sociability must reveal underlying power relations in ordinary personal interactions.

Introduction: The Art of Tact

The introduction is in two sections. The first section outlines the lineaments of tact as a response to the sociological conditions of modern urban life, its connection to the essay form and its potential to provide the basis of an appreciative mode of literary criticism today. The first section concludes by explaining why and how tact contains within it a practice of both aesthetics and ethics. The second section of the introduction provides, through a sustained reading of the young John Stuart Mills essays on aesthetics, the theoretical basis for an aesthetic liberalism. I argue that this version of liberalism, although constituting a road not taken in Mills later career, does finds its fullest expression and development in nineteenth-century Britain in the reflective literary essays

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democratic life. My study overcomes the fatigued binary of appreciation against

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of Lamb, Arnold and Pater, and their respective registers of tact: performance, pedagogy and politics.

Performance: The Romantic Essay and the Emergence of Tact

This chapter defines tact and explains how it works. I first analyze the ethical and aesthetic innovations that make the writing of William Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt and Charles Lamb such an important departure from eighteenth-century essayists like Joseph

intimacy of Lambs Essays of Elia makes them the most accessible, and most fully elaborated, example of a tactful sensibility. The romantics invented tact as a democratic and theatrical urban virtue, at which anyone could play. My analysis reveals how the linguistic techniques of tact made use of the anonymity and diversity of the city to confound the act of placing people according to absolutist hierarchies of status, opening instead transitional spaces of play between people. I turn to the comparable effort by utilitarian thinkers to create transitional social space and explain an important parallel between Lamb and Bentham: both proposed a conception of society as an aggregation of dignified subjects rather than as a mass or crowd. This comparison is limited, however. The chapter concludes with a close analysis of their alternative theories of education to demonstrate how Benthams transitional space relies on competition and a materialism of interest, while Lambs is based in the particularity of a subjects sensuous experience. This contrast forms the basis of the distinction between a political and an aesthetic liberalism that I discuss in chapters two and three.

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Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson, then explain closely how the impersonal

Pedagogy: The Education of Matthew Arnold

My second chapter contests Arnolds reactionary reputation by shifting our attention to his neglected educational writing. Arnolds well known abandonment of poetry for essay writing was, I argue, caused by his search for a literary form that could temper the strident chords of Victorian political controversy. I read Arnolds canonical maxim, to see the object as it really is, not only as a call for objectivity but for a tactful,

liberalism. Arnold sought to bring the essays transitional space into public political culture. A close analysis of Arnolds reports on education and his vocal opposition to the 1862 Revised Code (which made government support of schools conditional on the results of examinations, independent of the pedagogical experience of the student) demonstrates how a theory of egalitarian education forms the centre of Arnolds tactful sensibility. I contrast his writing with contemporaneous theorists of education, such as James Kay-Shuttleworth and Robert Lowe, to explain how Arnold conceived of pedagogy, not as preaching or even informing, but as a more just distribution of aesthetic experience. These pedagogical convictions, I suggest, form the basis of Arnolds egalitarianism, elaborated in his late essay on Equality.

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aesthetic, sensibility that would attenuate and complement a more combative political

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Politics: Walter Paters Aesthetic Liberalism

In the Renaissance, Pater takes Arnolds precepts and makes a world from them. I show how Pater critiques the combative proceduralism of Mills On Liberty, by which truth is liberated by the clash of opinions, in order to delineate his alternative, aesthetic, liberalism. Pater insists that liberty is more than the opportunity to debate; his criterion of freedom inheres in whether people are able to compose their own aesthetic experience in ordinary life. Paters essays develop a distinction between controversy and creativity by

proposing new forms of relation to other people as well as art. His liberalism proposed a vivid mediation, which could include diverse modes of life without impingement of their color and vitality. He describes his liberalism as relief in two senses of the word: as both the easing of painful social constriction and oppositional tension, and as the provision of materials for richer social interaction. Pater is interested in aesthetic moments when a leavening of anxiety renders social experience more tangible, more creatively useable; he thus proposes a social model that, rather than evading, enriches and eases the strain of engagement with society. In an analysis of Plato and Platonism, Paters often overlooked lectures to Oxford undergraduates, I demonstrate how he constructs an educational theory from this aesthetic of relief that equates teaching with the practice of a non-coercive tact. He does this by setting the conditions in which education becomes an autonomous experience: as art for arts sake becomes education for educations sake. The chapter makes a new case for a politics of aestheticism, on the basis of tacts redistribution of aesthetic experience.

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refusing to admit conflict as the single naturalized basis for interactions in society, and by

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Acknowledgements

During the writing of this dissertation my life has been persistently dogged by good luck, of which the chief part is found in the people I have met on the way. To begin with, I couldnt imagine a better committee. I acknowledge, with gratitude and affection, Diana Fuss, Jeff Nunokawa, and Esther Schor, who have been advisers of astonishing kindness and insight. They are each of them expert in the difficult art of encouragement. I also thank my fourth reader, Adam Phillips, and my faculty mentor, Jeff Dolven, from whose unfailing generosity and intellect I have gained more than I can say. And I acknowledge

Among friends and collegues in and around Princeton my debts number too high

Brown, Michelle Coghlan, Henry Cowles, Maayan Dauber, William Evans, Andy Ferguson, Nathaniel Gardenswartz, Mike Hatch, Christina Henricks, Robert Higney, Briallen Hopper, Amber Jackson, Sophie Jin, Evan Kindley, Wendy Lee, Emily Ryan Lerner, Jan and John Logan, Greg Londe, Oren Lurie, Luke Massa, Joel Newberger, Ivan Ortiz, Lindsay Reckson, Ariana Reilly, Joe Robin, Emily Rutherford, James Rutherford, Jaume Santaeularia, Jacky Shin, Karen Sisti, Ellen Smith, Jim Steichen, Arul Suresh, Kelly Swartz, Colm Toibin, Melissa Tuckman, Julianne Werlin, Edmund White, Amelia Worsley and Emily Vasiliauskas. George Pitcher has been to me a singular example and friend. I am very grateful to the staff and undergraduate members of Rockefeller College for making my home there such a vital and happy one. I have learned so much from the

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to measure, but I cannot omit the names of Veronica Alfano, Daniel Bernstein, Adrienne

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the kind help and inspiration of Amanda Anderson, at SCT and beyond.

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students I have had the luck to teach. I am grateful to the exceptional graduate students, faculty and staff of the Princeton English Department and particularly to Patricia Guglielmi, without whom nothing would happen. This project gained much from the invaluable conversation and advice of Leo Bersani, Zahid Chaudhary, Anne Cheng, Frances Ferguson, Meredith Martin, Deborah Nord, Nigel Smith, Susan Stewart, Susan Wolfson and Michael Wood. I gratefully acknowledge generous support of this project from the Mrs Giles Whiting Foundation and the Princeton Insititue for International and Regional Studies,

help the editors and staff of ELH and Raritan and the brilliant faculty, staff and participants of the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell in Summer 2009 (where I was lucky to attend Simon Durings excellent seminar), which enhanced the breadth and depth of my thinking about criticism.

Home in England I must thank for their friendship and many kinds of hospitality: Ruth Abbott, Dorothy Leys, Victoria and Robert Lorne-Davis, Ankhi Mukherjee (without whom, no Princeton) Minnie Scott and Alice, Cathy and Steward Tendler. And my family: Mum, Dad, my brothers Mike and James, and especially Nan. I owe the most to Yaron.

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and the kindness of Amanda Wilkins at the Princeton Writing Program. I thank for their

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Table of Contents

Abstract

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Acknowledgements

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Introduction The Art of Tact

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Chapter One

Performance: The Romantic Essay and the Emergence of Tact

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Chapter Two

Pedagogy: The Education of Matthew Arnold

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Chapter Three Politics: Walter Paters Aesthetic Liberalism 209

Bibilography

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Introduction

The Ar t o f Tac t

Uncommon Ground

Sometimes life is a muddle and not a mystery. This dissertation is about the difficulties,

handling them. It is about how an indirect relation in knowing people and things might be kinder, and somehow more true, than a direct one. Broadly, it is concerned with the nineteenth century in Britain, and how literature responded to its social exigencies. The pressures of urbanization, industrialization and an acceleration in population growth meant that never before had so many lived in such close proximity, among ever more different people.1 With a new intensity, people found ordinary sociability, and its ways of knowing others, to be a problem on their hands.2 Specifically, this dissertation is about tact: a particular response to these social exigencies that emerged in Britain at the

1 2

See chapter one for a discussion of these social conditions. My project is informed, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, by writers on sociology, such as Emile Durkheim and Georg Simmel, who reflect on the effects of these developments on the felt experience of individuals. See chapters 1 and 2.

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and the pleasures, of living with other people, and about better and worse ways of

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beginning of the century, which provides the ethical and aesthetic basis for and an explanation for the importance of the essay form through the century. The quality of tact is hard to define, but a clue can be found in how the word itself changed his meaning at the turn of the nineteenth century. It came to mean the way by which people best handle other people, where formerly it had meant only a niceness of discrimination in matters of taste. Shifting from the arena of politesse to that of politics, tact left the prerogative of an elite, and became the basis of a democratic sociability.3 A sociability of tact carried hopes for the betterment of an entire culture: when the host of a

make us better company as men and women of the world, TH Mallock achieves a satirical reduction of the tactful essayism of Matthew Arnold and Walter Pater, whom he represents as guests at the party.4 But the statement is also quite accurate; social relations really did provide the foundation of their essays. This introduction will define not only tact, but also its ethics and aesthetics, and through the example of John Stuart Mills early writings open the case for tacts development of an aesthetic liberalism through the essay form. I will begin, though, by way of a making a distinction, raised above, between two approaches to life in society: as a mystery or as a muddle.

Again see chapter one, where I trace the development of the uses of the word tact in early nineteenth-century Britain. 4 TH Mallock, The New Republic; or, Culture, Faith and Philosophy in an English Country House (London: Kessinger, 2002), 193.

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country gathering in The New Republic (1877) declares that the aim of culture is to

Mystery or Muddle

The nineteenth century in Britain was faced with the breakdown of established rules for status and codes for reading social position.5 One possible response to this situation was epistemological, a turning to new sets of rules for knowing. Nineteenth-century British culture, as we know, evinced a passion for clarity, whether in the exact and exacting utilitarian systems of James Mill or the stricter sorts of positivism and scientism found later in the century. The social codes that proliferated in Victorian Britain, its ever more

Michel Foucaults work on discipline, were a powerful network for social organization and control.6 Or, one might insist on reaffirming old rules: conservative commentators throughout the century like Blackwoods Magazine defended the prescription of behaviour by traditional status codes. Many novels eschewed modern urban confusion altogether in favour of a Tory imaginary of a traditional parochial order. Or, in the very heart of the urban scene, one could insist on a more modern, knowing, attitude towards ones environment. The scientific racialization of poverty, for instance, in George Mayhews 1840s series London Labour and the London Poor, attempted to provide not only descriptions of the poor but also a means, and a medium, by which their more wellto-do neighbours might define their relations to them. We might class these endeavours

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I discuss these changes in social codes in chapter one. See in particular Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (New York: Vintage, 1995) and The History of Sexuality Volume One: An Introduction (New York: Vintage, 1990) DA Millers The Novel and the Police (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989) is the canonical application of these principles to the literature of the British nineteenth century. For an exposition of the social need in this period for reformed - more diffuse and encompassing codes of etiquette and their close association with the novel form, see Kent Puckett, Bad Form (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

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regulated etiquette, are part of our familiar conception of the time, and we know from

as a relation to mystery; finding society a puzzle, they set out to solve it, replacing vague confusion with the clarity of newly legislated social relations, or rejuvenated old ones. According to this story, knowledge is power. And this is the story that has dominated literary criticisms understanding of social relations in nineteenth-century literature. It understands sociability as constituted by the most subtle dispersal of power on the most minute level, making the most ordinary relations the media of what Michel Foucault calls capillary power. Tact is an intrinsic part of this capillary network,

discretion ramified through this period as a means of discursive control producing the proliferation of discourses of power.7 DA Miller has argued for the social efficacy of the novel as the centre of this story, showing how, through its form, discipline constitutively mobilizes a tactic of tact.8 This is a familiar, because compelling, reading of the novels social work. Novels in the nineteenth century are knowing. Narrative structure is revelatory; final valuation occurs only at the novels end, and the reader knows precisely how all are to be judged (Frances Ferguson has shown how this fact connects the structure of the novel with the structure of utilitarian theory).9 The novel reverses the anomic drift of Gesellschaft, revealing connections where there was anonymity (think of Walter Hartright, in the Woman in White, marrying a woman whom we had thought only a chance encounter on Hampstead Heath) and sympathetic knowledge of motivations

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Volume One: An Introduction (New York: Vintage, 1990), 18. On capillary power see Michel Foucault, Power/ Knowledge: Selected interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 39, 96. 8 DA Miller, The Novel and the Police (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 17. 9 Frances Ferguson, Pornography, the Theory: What Utilitarianism did to Action (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).

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Foucault explains in the first volume of his History of Sexuality, as areas of tact and

where once there was opacity (consider the narrator in Middlemarch entering the innermost thoughts of Fred Vincy).10 According to this picture of criticism and society, criticisms most puissant function is to reveal how the imbrication of power through the most private, domestic scenes constitutes the most intimate, supposedly personal and freely agentive selffashioning.11 As critics of the operations of power we know where to look. It is at the supposedly inviolate heart of things, in the novels mimesis of domestic relations, where we find the mystery of power we make it our business to unveil. This criticism finds the

of power relations of an immense social magnitude. And usually not so simply: the complexity and compelling art of this task has produced in turn the most exquisite criticism. The vector of this criticism is always from the outside-in: from what we know about power, to the exposure of its operations within our intimate handling of one another.

But is there any merit to a less knowing and a more muddled picture: one that offers more than a view of powers dishearteningly elaborate perfection? Is there a way to begin from the inside-out, with the question of whether new visions of social relations might produce new distributions of power? And would this process have to begin with a decoupling of the dominance of the novel as form from the form of a suspicious criticism? Henry James, lamenting the dominance of knowing as the novels project in the nineteenth century (particularly as epitomized by George Eliots narratorial omniscience) sought new means of restraining it and thus opening new forms of
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I owe these points to Jeff Nunokawa (private communication). See, for example, Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).

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smallest of social interactions to be, simply or not so simply, the exquisite miniaturization

relationality within the novel form. To this end, he introduced techniques of focalization and narratorial reserve; and he called this restraint tact.12 He was following the lead, as I will show, of the British essay tradition of his century. Recent criticism, also, has sought tactful turn in its own field, proposing less deep, less symptomatic, even less paranoid modes of reading literature, in a call, not for abandoning the activity of unearthing mysteries, so central to the project of the school of suspicion the definitive mode of criticism from the work of Nietzche, Marx and Freud on but for a widening of the critical repertoire of relations.13 Are there other things we can do with works of

useful, or the most imaginative, or the most kind, thing we can do with them? And these questions (to muddy the waters further) are also questions for liberalism, for the basic conundrum of how people are to live together. We might insist, with some liberal theorists, that our project ought to be founded on the deliberative unearthing of a shared truth, and thus a consensus from which we could build a society: common ground. But for another version of liberalism, we must do without this consensus, and opt instead for a shared life that is predicated on getting along without it, seeking instead a via media.14 Might we find in the form of the essay a less knowing, and a more tactful, response to these problems?

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See Samuel Cross, The Ethics of Tact in the Wings of the Dove in Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Vol 43 no 3, Fall 2010, 401-423. 13 See for example, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Paranoid Reading, Reparative Reading in Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Duke: Duke University Press, 2002), Sharon Marcus and Stephen Best, Surface Reading, Representations 108 (Fall 2009), 1-21, and Heather Love Close but not Deep: Literary Ethics and the Descriptive Turn, New Literary History, Vol 41 No 2 (Spring 2010), 371-391. 14 On the dichotomy in liberal theory between consensus and the via media, see John Gray, Two Faces of Liberalism (New York: New Press, 2002).

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literature, with other people, than know them? Is exposing their truth really the most

An Essayism of Tact

So what is the less knowing response, the response that is more of a muddle? The answer, I will argue in this dissertation, is found in the tact of the essay form. Both tact and the essay are linked to experience and experiment; they seek to try, to essay, to feel their way among their objects.15 To be essayistic is to be tactful, or at least careful and not too insistent in ones handling (it is impossible to try something out and to will it at the same time.) The reflective essay, as Montaigne first and famously demonstrated, can

methods of a given encounter. In On Experience, for example, Montaigne points out that

The induction which we wish to draw from the likeness between events is unsure since they all show unlikenesses. When collating likenesses no quality is so universal as diversity and variety. As the most explicit example of likeness the Greeks, Latins and we ourselves allude to that of eggs, yet there was a man of Delphi among others who recognized the signs of difference between eggs and never mistook one for another.16

If eggs, under the eyes of essayists, turn out to be so surprising well, what about people? And what would it mean, anyway, to make ones most significant universal
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On the neglect of experience in literary and critical theory see Martin Jay, Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). 16 Michel de Montaigne, The Essays: A Selection, ed. MA Screech, (London: Penguin, 1993), 364.

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have a curiously destabilizing effect on the pre-established terms and epistemological

principle for dealing with events encounters with persons and things their very unlikeness? What kind of medium of connection would this require? Tact affords answers to these questions, as this dissertation will show, by eschewing the conduct of encounters according to a consensual system, or method, or a single truth, and proposing instead an art of sociability. Tact begins (as Dugald Stewart put it, coining the words sociable sense in 1793), with feeling ones way; and in not being so sure that eggs is eggs. The casual but crucial move Montaigne makes in his essay is to direct attention to the moment when the

Arnolds famous words, as they really are. This is the moment of the essay. But why the essay? To explain the epistemological shift I am proposing, from an organization around a mystery, to the tactile acceptance of muddle, I want to look briefly at Foucaults own aesthetic turn, from rule and the systems of discipline, to individual experience and an aesthetics of existence between volumes one and two of his History of Sexuality.

Foucault relates how I was led, through certain paradoxes and difficulties, to substitute a history of ethical problematizations based on practices of the self, for a history of systems of morality based, hypothetically, on interdictions.17 In the process, Foucault realized he was relying on a notion of desire, or the desiring subject which constituted if not a theory, then at least a generally accepted theoretical theme. This subject, he realized, required more critical attention than he had heretofore given it. And, as with Montaignes example, Foucault found the limits of a theory to lie at the problem
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Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Volume 2: The Use of Pleasure (New York: Vintage, 1990), 13.

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rule is of no more help, and we are left handling the objects in themselves, with things, in

of individual difference. So, instead of tracing the science of sex in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Foucault began a study of ancient Greek texts on erotics and conduct, in order to look for the forms and modalities of the relation to self by which the individual constitutes and recognizes himself qua subject. This meant he decided to reorientate his whole project around the subject of historically constituted individual experience, with the question: what were the games of truth by which human beings came to see themselves as desiring individuals?18 Now this statement is a pretty good description, more or less, of what Montaigne

Foucault describes the shift in the focus of his project by way of a shift of generic convention, a shift to the essay form. He describes his new activity as a straying afield, a getting into a muddle which raises the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than one sees. This is a curious practice of philosophy which

is entitled to explore what might be changed, in its own thought, through a practice of a knowledge that is foreign to it. The essay which should be understood as the assay or test by which, in the game of truth, one undergoes changes, and not as the simplistic appropriation of others for the purpose of communication is the living substance of philosophy, at least if we assume that philosophy is still what it was in times past, i.e., an ascesis,an exercise of oneself in the activity of thought.19
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Foucault, History of Sexuality Vol. 2, 6-7. Foucault, History of Sexuality Vol. 2, 9.

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was up to as well. And this is the point of my digression: I am interested in the way

Foucault introduces the essay as ascesis, a practice of living. And this is the sense of the essay, of essayism, I want, throughout this dissertation, to keep in mind. Foucaults straying afield provides a useful example, and an analogue of the straying, or wandering, that this dissertation attempts: from our critical sense of sociability as control, to sociability as play, and to play as an activity in which new forms of relation might be born.

This practice of sociable essayism is, to recur to an old-fashioned word, appreciation. The word is linked to the form, and activity, of the reflective, speculative essay: trying something on for size, for its possible value to us in living. Appreciation is one half of tact; the appreciative essay offers an experience with the hope that it might change its readers, although according to no set plan or specified ends. The essay form of the nineteenth century, as I will show, drew on conventions of play, rather than legislation, by looking past the prescriptive Addisonian tradition. It looked, instead, to domestic predecessors like Sir Thomas Browne rather than to Sir Francis Bacon, and to French moralists like Montaigne rather than to Descartes. The nineteenth-century essay is a countergenre, with sly impertinence opposing the legislative aims of its eighteenthcentury predecessor; to this end, it developed appreciation as a technique for handling

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An Art of Appreciation

new social exigencies.20 (Walter Paters Appreciations of 1889, late in the century, announces its sense of a genealogical tradition of this practice). This appreciative technique performed the inversion of the critical vector that I proposed above. From insisting on the ordering of sociability according to the greatest magnitude of power, by which the small and quotidian merely replicates the relations of the greatest forces (according to this logic, once we locate the immense but wily operations of power, it is, as it were, turtles all the way down), to the suggestion of new modes of relation, modes that might provide the basis for new distributions of power, and new practices of the self.

prescriptions of power, to proposing what room power might leave for maneuver, and what possible uses might be made of it, and the recursive effects of these forms of use on society at large. All the essayists I consider want us to take seriously the work and role in life of the practice of mediation, and the radical potential of the tactful handling of neighbouring objects, whether objets dart or other people. It is as close as they get to an injunction of duty.

The techniques of these essays aim to propose new forms of relation or new uses for old forms and a wider sense of the uses of description. They are not treatises or essays in persuasion. There are, of course, rhetorical practices to analyze, but these seek other effects than mimetic representation, or dialectical progression, or the making or the deconstruction of argument. They aim instead to open up for what I call, after the thought of the British psychoanalyst DW Winnicott, a transitional area of experiencing, or a

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On the countergenre, which both contains and challenges an earlier generic tradition, and the exemplary case of romantic poetry, see Stuart Curran, Poetic Form and British Romanticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

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The nineteenth-century essay turned, as Foucault would, from an interest in tracing the

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middle space between reader and essay, subject and object.21 These essays furnish their reader not with arguments, but with possible relations and commitment to life, and this is why I am analogizing to them Foucaults late interest in an aesthetics of existence. My project relies on a proposition shared alike by Foucault and the essayists I study: what Leo Bersani has called the attempt to imagine new modes of relating and relationality as the basis for a more egalitarian politics, and that these modes can be modes we have always had available in our culture, but which we have been trained, culturally, not to notice.22 Remedying this situation would require not limiting political relations to

whether it is procedural or not.

Appreciation is a response to this predicament; in which a seemingly simple project of description can bring neglected forms of value to light. An essayistic appreciation, as opposed to critical suspicion or argument, is one way of widening our relational repertoire as literary critics, as well as an important social response of artists and intellectuals in nineteenth-century British culture. Seeking to widen the cultural field and not to claim it, it doesnt seek to replace other modes, but it does seek to temper and critique them as well as complement them. And this appreciativeness is also is one of the reasons for tacts neglect. Tact is a weak theory; it contains the appeal, and the difficult provision much in request by critics now of a way of reading without a self-baffling strength.23 Tact, then, in both its techniques and its objects of appreciation, brings other

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See DW Winnicott, Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena in Playing and Reality (London: Tavistock, 1971). 22 Leo Bersani, Is the Rectum a Grave? and Other Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 201. 23 On weak and strong theories for reading see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwicks essay Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading in Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy,Performativity (Duke:

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sanctioned or habitual forms, and particularly not to oppositional struggle or conflict

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