Adorno's poetics of critique by Steven Helmling

By Steven Helmling

Adorno's Poetics of Critique is a severe research of the Marxist culture-critic Theodor W. Adorno, a founding member of the Frankfurt college and commonly looked this day as its so much awesome exponent.
Steven Helmling is centrally fascinated with Adorno's notoriously tricky writing, a characteristic such a lot commentators recognize in basic terms to set it apart which will an expository account of 'what Adorno is saying'. against this, Adorno's complicated writing is the critical concentration of this examine, consisting of certain research of Adorno's most complicated texts, specifically his most renowned and intricate paintings, co-authored with Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment.
Helmling argues that Adorno's key motifs - dialectic, notion, negation, immanent critique, constellation - are prescriptions now not only for severe pondering, but additionally for severe writing. For Adorno the efficacy of critique is conditioned on how the writing of critique is written. either in thought and in perform, Adorno urges a 'poetics of critique' that's every piece as severe as the rest in his 'critical theory.

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Spirit is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and tarrying with it. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that converts it into being. This power is identical with what we earlier called the Subject . . (Phenomenology 19). Spirit’s near-death experience here—it makes unhappy consciousness sound like a euphemism—lends itself to our thematics of the ‘labor of affects’: overcoming ataraxia in a liberation or re-animation of affect, as fundamental to, even constitutive of Spirit’s project, and its eventual reward—a project proleptic 32 Adorno’s Poetics of Critique of many nineteenth- and twentieth-century reinventions of heroic quest as psychological ordeal, from Wordsworth and Coleridge, Baudelaire (‘Voyage à Cythére’), Browning’s ‘Dark Tower’ to Eliot’s The Waste Land, from the sensationalisms of Delacroix and Géricault to Nietzsche’s ‘strong pessimism’ and Wagner’s grandiose dooms, to Freud (Everyman an Oedipus of anguishing self-inquiry) and Mann and Valéry.

Adorno urges that to ‘think thinking’ obliges us to think our feeling, to feel our thinking—and (what our traumatic history has perhaps most inhibited in us) to feel our feeling as well. ) mean not Adorno’s own emotions, but rather that trans-individual condition, ‘objective’ in the Hegelian sense, in which subject and object are not two poles of an antithesis, but rather two phases of a function whose textualization Adorno will enact in his work of writing, understanding such labor, again, performatively, as a mimesis or methexis rather than a ‘representation’ of what cannot in any case be represented; the analogy with Lacan’s Real, which ‘resists symbolization absolutely’, can serve as reminder of Lacan’s (quite Hegelian) premise that individual psychology, the subject, affect in general, crossed and fissured by collectively projected meanings and desires, are ‘effects of the signifier’, constituted in and by language in the first place.

Some qualifications are necessary here: Hegel posits unhappy consciousness (Phenomenology 111–38) to diagnose precisely the sort of moral addiction or compulsion outlined above. He presents it as coincident historically with the advent of Christianity in the Mediterranean world, and its confluence with Greco-Roman Skepticism and Stoicism. For Hegel, unhappy consciousness expresses a relation to some ‘beyond’ that is inaccessible in this world; it thus encourages an ‘abstract negation’ of this-worldly attachments, and of the very possibility of this-worldly happiness as such.

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