Russell, David

Associate Professor

Kaplan 188
Tel: 310.825.4173 / Fax: 310.267.4339 / E-mail


BA, Modern History and English, University of Oxford (2004)PhD, English, Princeton University (2011)

Research and Teaching

David Russell arrived at UCLA in 2023; he was previously Associate Professor of English at the University of Oxford (2015-2023) and Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at King’s College London (2013-2015). He has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University, and the Mahindra Center for the Humanities at Harvard University.

His first book, Tact, is about the development in nineteenth-century Britain of a new mode of feeling one’s way with others in complex modern conditions. The book traces how the essay genre came to exemplify this sensuous new ethic and aesthetic. It argues that the essay form provided the resources for the performance of tact and analyses its techniques in the writings of Charles Lamb, John Stuart Mill, Matthew Arnold, George Eliot, and Walter Pater. Offering fresh approaches to thinking about criticism, sociability, politics, and art, Tact concludes by following a legacy of essayistic tact to the practice of twentieth-century British psychoanalysts like D. W. Winnicott and Marion Milner.

Professor Russell’s second book is about the twentieth-century British psychoanalyst, essayist and artist, Marion Milner. It analyses Milner’s visual and literary styles together, in order to explore the role of creativity in the development of what we now call “mental health”. The book provides a history of psychoanalytic ideas in Britain at what was a very rich moment of thinking about what people might require in order to live a good life. Marion Milner: On Creativity is forthcoming with Oxford University Press in 2024, as part of its My Reading series.

The relationship between word and image forms the basis of a third project, about the nineteenth-century British art and cultural critic, John Ruskin. This book considers Ruskin’s insistence of thinking visually in relation to his obsession with art’s destruction – an obsession that reaches back to the history of the Reformation in England, and forward to Ruskin’s visions of environmental devastation. The book proposes that Ruskin’s own iconoclastic style is key to understanding the way he attempted to teach his readers to see their world anew, as well as urge them to action.

At UCLA, Professor Russell teaches courses on nineteenth-century literature, critical prose, psychoanalysis, queer theory and interdisciplinary approaches to literature, film, philosophy and the visual arts.

Selected Publications


Tact: Aesthetic Liberalism and the Essay Form in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Princeton, 2018)

Marion Milner: On Creativity, My Reading, (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2024)

Essays, Articles and Chapters

“Psychoanalysis and the Essay,” The Cambridge History of the British Essay ed. Denise Gigante and Jason Childs (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2024)

“Ethics and the Essay,” The Cambridge Companion to the Essay ed. Kara Wittman and Evan Kindley (Cambridge University Press, 2023)

“Facing Reality: Aesthetic Education and Human Flourishing,” Literature and Human Flourishing, ed. James English and Heather Love, (Oxford University Press, 2023)

“How to Face Reality: Ruskin, Freud and Winnicott,” Raritan (Winter 2021) Vol 40 no 3

Introduction to George Eliot, Middlemarch (Oxford World’s Classics, 2019)

“The Idea of Matthew Arnold” in Thinking Through Style: Non-Fiction Prose of the Long Nineteenth Century ed. Hurley and Waithe, (OUP, 2018)

“Stupid Like Tennyson,” Raritan, Vol. 35 No 1 (2015)

“Aesthetic Liberalism: John Stuart Mill as Essayist” Victorian Studies, Vol. 56 no. 1 (Autumn 2014), 7-30

Interest Areas
• British Literature & Culture, 19th C. – Present
• Critical Theory
• Sexuality & Gender Studies
• Visual Culture / Media Studies / Digital Humanities
• The History of the Essay Form
• History and Theory of Psychoanalysis, Especially in Britain