Aesthetic Theory (Theory and History of Literature)
Theodor W. Adorno
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Perhaps the most important aesthetics of the twentieth century appears here newly translated, in English that is for the first time faithful to the intricately demanding language of the original German. The culmination of a lifetime of aesthetic investigation, Aesthetic Theory is Theodor W. Adorno's magnum opus, the clarifying lens through which the whole of his work is best viewed, providing a framework within which his other major writings cohere.
otherwise. The logic of artworks demonstrates that it cannot be taken literally, in that it grants COHERENCE AND MEANING 137 every particular event and resolution an incomparably greater degree of latitude than logic otherwise does; it is impossible to ignore the compelling hint of a relation with the logic of dreams in which, comparably, a feeling of coercive logical consistency is bound up with an element of contingency. Through its retreat from empirical goals, logic in art acquires a
the theological model of the world as an image made in God's likeness, though not as an act of creation but as the objectivation of the human comportment that imitates creation; not creatio ex nihilo but creation out of the created. The metaphorical expression is irresistible, that form in artworks is everything on which the hand has left its trace, everything over which it has passed. Form is the seal of social labor, fundamentally different 144 COHERENCE AND MEANING from the empirical
superstition. What today emerges as the crisis of art, as its new quality, is as old as art's concept. How an artwork deals with this antinomy determines its possibility and quality. Art cannot fulfill its concept. This strikes each and every one of its works, even the highest, with an ineluctable imperfectness that repudiates the idea of perfection toward which artworks must aspire. Unreftected, perfectly logical enlightenment would have to discard art just as the prosaic pragmatist in fact
Freischiitz Agathe, standing on the balcony, suddenly becomes aware of the starry night. The extent to which this taking a breath depends on what is mediated, on the world of conventions, is unmistakable. Over long periods the feeling of natural beauty intensified with the suffering of the subject thrown back on himself in a mangled and administered world; the experience bears the mark of Weltschmerz. Even Kant had misgivings about art made by human beings and conventionally opposed to nature.
inspired by negativity, specifically by the deficiency of natural beauty, in the sense that so long as nature is defined only through its antithesis to society, it is not yet what it appears to be. What nature strives for in vain, artworks fulfill: They open their eyes. Once it no longer serves as an object of action, appearing nature itself imparts expression, whether that of melancholy, peace, or something else. Art stands in for nature through its abolition in effigy; all naturalistic art is