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Determinacy Kills

Terry Eagleton: Theodor Adorno

19 June 2008
Theodor AdornoOne Last Genius 
by Detlev Claussen.
Harvard, 440 pp., £22.95, May 2008, 978 0 674 02618 6
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... One of the many things that Adorno admired about Beckett’s writing was its ‘scrupulous meanness’, to borrow Joyce’s description of his own literary style in Dubliners. Beckett’s works take a few sparse elements and permutate ...
12 May 1994
The Frankfurt School 
by Rolf Wiggershaus, translated by Michael Robertson.
Polity, 787 pp., £45, January 1994, 0 7456 0534 6
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... theory indebted as much to Hegel as to Marx. In the brief period before Hitler came to power, Horkheimer assembled around him a brilliant coterie of younger intellectuals, of whom Herbert Marcuse and TheodorAdorno were to become the most eminent. In 1934, the Institute, many of whose members were Jews, transplanted itself to the United States and, still under Horkheimer’s mandarin rule, set up home as ...

Sedan Chairs and Turtles

Leland de la Durantaye: Benjamin’s Baudelaire

21 November 2013
Charles Baudelaire: Un poeta lirico nell’età del capitalismo avanzato 
by Walter Benjamin, edited by Giorgio Agamben, Barbara Chitussi and Clemens-Carl Härle.
Neri Pozza, 927 pp., €23, December 2012, 978 88 545 0623 7
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... d done with the pages he’d been given. His uncertain directions led, nevertheless, to the recovery of Benjamin’s papers – or so it seemed. They were sent to New York. As Benjamin’s friend TheodorAdorno sifted through them he found many things present, and many things absent. Chief among the missing was the book on Baudelaire that had consumed Benjamin during the last three years of his life ...

Consider the Wombat

Katherine Rundell

11 October 2018
... himself began spitting blood. Two wombats died, but at least one other was delivered into the arms of the Empress Josephine. Wombats have offered solace where little other solace could be found. TheodorAdorno was a frequent visitor to Frankfurt Zoo after the Second World War. He wrote to the director in 1965: ‘Would it not be nice [or ‘beautiful’: ‘wäre es nicht schön’] if Frankfurt Zoo ...

Boundaries

Martin Jay

10 June 1993
Notes to Liteature: Vols I-II 
by Theodor Adorno, edited by Rolf Tiedemann, translated by Shierry Weber.
Columbia, 284 pp., $35, June 1992, 9780231069120
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... Adorno once called his writings Flaschenpost, messages in bottles tossed into the ‘flood of barbarism bursting on Europe’ for the benefit of unknown future readers. The floodwaters have now mercifully ...

Doing it to Mama

Angela Carter

19 May 1988
On Birth and Madness 
by Eric Rhode.
Duckworth, 222 pp., £14.95, July 1987, 9780715621707
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... often curiously titled – ‘Father into Foetus’, ‘Eyes Pregnant with a Mother’s Babies’. This method of organisation is reminiscent of the collections of brief, aphoristic essays by TheodorAdorno, although Eric Rhode’s intellectual method is rather less rigorous than Adorno’s. Rhode’s speculation centres on work as a psychiatrist in a puerperal breakdown unit – that is, a place ...

At MoMA

Hal Foster: ‘Inventing Abstraction’

7 February 2013
... force of the mass-produced commodity, the becoming-abstract of capitalist life, as variously explored by Georg Simmel, György Lukács and Alfred Sohn-Rethel. After Greenberg (not to mention TheodorAdorno), we often think of abstraction as a withdrawal from the modern world, almost a safehouse for art, but the converse is just as true: the modern world became too abstract to represent in the old ways ...
30 January 1992
Scheler 
by Francis Dunlop.
Claridge, 97 pp., £9.95, October 1991, 1 870626 71 0
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... calling for a charismatic führer to raise the moral tone; or convinced, like Georg Lukacs, that the triumph of the philistines could be transcended with a Hegelianised Marx. But nor would he, like TheodorAdorno, resign himself to a cultural criticism that could at best reflect the dreadful fractures; or, like the academic phenomenologists, accept the purely private contemplation of essence. He had a ...

Smash the Screen

Hal Foster: ‘Duty Free Art’

5 April 2018
Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War 
by Hito Steyerl.
Verso, 256 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 1 78663 243 2
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... theory – in ‘The Ornament of the Masses’ (1927) Siegfried Kracauer urged his contemporaries to pass through ‘the murky reason’ of capitalist reification, and in Aesthetic Theory (1970) TheodorAdorno stressed how central ‘a mimesis of the hardened’ was to modernist art – but Steyerl takes it to an extreme. Apparently, not only the old proletarian or postcolonial claim to be a subject ...
27 January 2020
A Cultural History of Tragedy: Vols I-VI 
edited by Rebecca Bushnell.
Bloomsbury Academic, 1302 pp., £395, November 2019, 978 1 4742 8814 9
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... an image of wretchedness in the raw. The ceremonies that take place on Remembrance Day are in this sense closer to the ancient sense of tragedy than the carnage they commemorate is. Besides, as both TheodorAdorno and Slavoj Žižek have argued, to describe the inmates of the Nazi camps as tragic is a moral obscenity. It is as though the use of the terms ascribes a meaning, or even a value, to something ...
3 August 1995
The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940 
edited by Theodor Adorno and Manfred Jacobson, translated by Evelyn Jacobson.
Chicago, 651 pp., £39.95, May 1994, 0 226 04237 5
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T.W. Adorno/Walter Benjamin: Briefwechsel 1928-40 
edited by Henri Lonitz.
Suhrkamp, 501 pp., DM 64, April 1994, 3 518 58174 0
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... of laziness (in learning Hebrew), incompetence (in sorting out his divorce) and sheer lack of ideological commitment. The present edition of the Correspondence was co-edited in 1966 by Scholem and Adorno, who keep silent on their own priorities (and who had little in common save their friendship with Benjamin, which was obviously supremely precious to each of them). Their attempts both during his ...
1 August 1985
... background were not essential to an understanding of his importance for music today. In 1958 Bloch attended the International Hegel Society’s congress in Frankfurt. The principal speaker was TheodorAdorno, whom Bloch had probably not seen, and had certainly not talked with, since they had parted company in the USA. Adorno had already arranged that he would not sit with Bloch at the opening ...

Ceaseless Anythings

James Wood: Robert Stone

1 October 1998
Damascus Gate 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 500 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 37058 8
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... scholar. At one point, Lucas says of his father and mother: ‘he took her on a trip to Los Angeles on the Superchief’ – the cross-country train – ‘to meet all his pals. The Frankfurt school. TheodorAdorno and Herbert Marcuse and Thomas Mann.’ Although Adorno helped Mann with Doctor Faustus, Mann had no especial proximity to the Frankfurt School, so Stone is technically wrong. But the little ...

Umbah-Umbah

Jerome McGann

22 June 1989
Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century 
by Greil Marcus.
Secker, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1989, 0 436 27338 1
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... explosive and erratic careers he uses whatever maps he can find: the theoretical writings of Isidore Isou and Guy Debord, Larry Clark’s pictures, Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium, TheodorAdorno (in particular his great and mordant Minima Moralia), Christopher Gray’s Leaving the 20th Century, Abiezer Coppe, Georges Bataille. Oddly, the name William Blake never passes the lips(tick ...

Making a Break

Terry Eagleton: Fredric Jameson’s Futures

9 March 2006
Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions 
by Fredric Jameson.
Verso, 431 pp., £20, September 2005, 1 84467 033 3
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... Herman Cohen, has recently been excavated by Russell Jacoby in Picture Imperfect.* Curiously, neither Jacoby nor Jameson mentions the latest Jewish thinker to inherit this tradition, Jacques Derrida. TheodorAdorno, whom Jameson does discuss, is another distinguished figure in this lineage, a philosopher for whom pessimism was more utopian than optimism because it kept faith with a suffering so ...

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