The Semblance of Subjectivity

Essays in Adorno's Aesthetic Theory

Theodor W. Adorno died in 1969 and his last major work, Ästhetische Theorie, was published posthumously a year later. Few philosophers have been as well versed in contemporary art, especially music, as Adorno, and even fewer have written so much that is of interest to the social sciences. Yet only recently have his aesthetic writings begun to receive sustained attention in the English-speaking world. This collection of essays is an important contribution to the growing discussion of Adorno's aesthetics in Anglo-American scholarship.

The essays in the volume, by many of the major Adorno scholars in the United States and Germany, are organized around the twin themes of semblance and subjectivity. Whereas the concept of semblance, or illusion, points to Adorno's links with Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, the concept of subjectivity recalls his lifelong struggle with a philosophy of consciousness stemming from Kant, Hegel, and Lukács. Adorno's elaboration of the two concepts takes many dialecical twists. Art, despite the taint of illusion that it has carried since Plato's Republic, turns out in Adorno's account of modernism to have a sophisticated capacity to critique illusion, including its own. Adorno's aesthetics emphasizes the connection between aesthetic theory and many other aspects of social theory. The paradoxical genius of Aesthetic Theory is that it turns traditional concepts into a theoretical cutting edge.

Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. 1. Introduction

    Lambert Zuidervaart

  3. 2. Mimesis and Mimetology: Adorno and Lacoue-Labarthe

    Martin Jay

  4. 3. Aesthetic Theory's Mimesis of Walter Benjamin

    Shierry Weber Nicholsen

  5. 4. Benjamin, Adorno, Surrealism

    Richard Wolin

  6. 5. Concept, Image, Name: On Adorno's Utopia of Knowledge

    Rolf Tiedemann

  7. 6. Concerning the Central Idea of Adorno's Philosophy

    Rüdiger Bubner

  8. 7. Why Rescue Semblance? Metaphysical Experience and the Possibility of Ethics

    J. M. Bernstein

  9. 8. Adorno's Notion of Natural Beauty: A Reconsideration

    Heinz Paetzold

  10. 9. Kant, Adorno, and the Social Opacity of the Aesthetic

    Tom Huhn

  11. 10. Art History and Autonomy

    Gregg M. Horowitz

  12. 11. Construction of a Gendered Subject: A Feminist Reading of Adorno's Aesthetic Theory

    Sabine Wilke and Heidi Schlipphacke

  13. 12. The Philosophy of Dissonance: Adorno and Schoenberg

    Robert Hullot-Kentor

  14. Select Bibliography
  15. Contributors
  16. Index