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Aesthetic Liberalism: John Stuart Mill as Essayist

David Russell
Victorian Studies
Vol. 56, No. 1 (Autumn 2013), pp. 7-30
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/victorianstudies.56.1.7
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Page Count: 24
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Aesthetic Liberalism: John Stuart Mill as Essayist
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Abstract I propose that the early essays of John Stuart Mill propose an aesthetic liberalism that provides the basis of On Liberty's aims. Aesthetic liberalism is founded in a set of formal relations (exemplified in the essay form) that provides an alternative structure of communication (as a practice of handling and not knowing others) to the assertive, conflictual interactions of political liberalism and, ultimately, an alternative version of sympathy to that inherited from eighteenth-century moral philosophy and practiced in the novel. As a structure of communication, it comes under much pressure by 1859 and On Liberty and is suppressed entirely in Mill's later work. For its continuation later in the century we need to look outside Mill's work to later essayists.

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