Tact, identification and distance | Dr Katja Haustein | Think Kent

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THINK KENT – INTERNATIONAL THINKERS | GLOBAL IMPACT
Tact, like compassion, is a derivative of empathy. To be able to empathize with another presupposes a capacity for identification. It involves for the self to be able to feel what the other feels so as to find a way to alleviate their state of distress. Although tact, like compassion, is based on nearness, its purpose is, ultimately, to generate distance. Being tactful means: to respect and to protect the intimacy of the other and in this way to preserve their dignity.

In this lecture, Dr Katja Haustein, Lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of Kent, looks at three twentieth-century theories of tact to explore the following question: what distance must I maintain between myself and others if we are to construct a community without collision, a sociability without alienation, based on an idea of individual freedom that may imply solitude but not isolation?

ABOUT DR KATJA HAUSTEIN
Before joining the University of Kent in 2012, Dr Katja Haustein studied Comparative Literature, German Literature, and History in Berlin, London, Paris, and Cambridge. She was a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, and a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. Her research interests are in modern French and German autobiographical writing in relation to visual culture; memory and identity; literature and emotions; literature and ethics; and art and medicine. She has written on conceptions of space in modern French literature, and on twentieth-century autobiography and visual culture, including Regarding Lost Time: Photography, Identity, and Affect in Proust, Benjamin, and Barthes (Oxford: Legenda, 2012). In her more recent work she looks at Barthes, milk, and pity, at the ‘Breastfeeding Crisis’ in Imperial Germany, and at the literary history of tact in the twentieth century.

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