Language and History in Adorno's Notes to Literature (Studies in Philosophy)
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Plass argues that Adorno’s essays on literature are of prime importance for an understanding of his aesthetics because they challenge the conceptual limitations of philosophical discourse.
play it down.14 The foremost classicist characteristic of Iphigenie auf Tauris is its classical sujet, which draws on Greek mythology and Euripides’s Iphigenia in Tauris; its dramatic form is likewise classical, that of a play [Schauspiel] in five acts. It is not, however, an imitation of Greek tragedy. Adorno underscores that Goethe did not call it a tragedy. Some of the phrasing and vocabulary sounds decidedly bourgeois, an anachronistic violation of the high style of ancient Greek tragedy.
human beings. (NL 1: 11; GS 11: 19) From the historico-philosophical perspective expressed in this passage, the essay is the philosophical attempt to escape philosophy’s insistence on transcendental truth. Since the essay does not pretend deduction from a “primordial given,” it can affirm its own derivative nature: always a cultural product, always dealing with culture, the essay refuses to think of nature other than as something irretrievably lost, immune to any “positive dialectic” and
theories, could be construed as a celebration of an unprincipled eclecticism—a postmodern “Alexandrianism,” to use a term to which Adorno occasionally refers, although it is not clear whether he 32 Language and History in Theodor W. Adorno’s Notes to Literature has the philosophers or the poets in mind.63 Adorno’s references to Alexandrianism are remarkable to the extent that the term—often associated with backwards-looking accumulation of (philological) knowledge rather than the development
communicative language turns into indistinct Rauschen. Adorno cites the line “Kein Deutliches erwarte dir” [“Don’t expect anything clear”] and comments: Everything that is meant or intended is secondary in comparison with linguistic form and is of little value without it, including the ideas to which Borchardt felt himself indebted. Substance crystallizes in language as such, as though it were the authentic language Jewish mysticism speaks of. 9 This gives his works their persistent enigmatic
the artwork and in its relation to a general norm—its style, its genre, its history. The only norm that applies to artworks is the norm that is gained critically—in accordance with the idea of non-normative criticism first developed in the works of the Jena Romantics—from the artworks themselves, by critiquing the old from the perspective of the new, the past from the perspective of the most aesthetically advanced present. Aesthetic norms are thus never fixed, but always shifting with the