Authored by: Theodore Gracyk

The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  April  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415782869
eBook ISBN: 9780203813034
Adobe ISBN: 9781136697142


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Theodor W. Adorno (1903–69) is increasingly regarded as the most important contributor to twentieth-century German aesthetics. Well-read in German and French literature, he studied composition with Alban Berg and considered a career as a concert pianist. His many volumes of writings on music, philosophy and culture are divided between dense philosophical theory and a relatively more accessible body of musical and literary criticism. However, Adorno has a mixed reputation. Aesthetic Theory (1997 [1970]) and other major works are repetitive, obscure and devoid of straightforward argumentation or clear organization — perhaps intentionally so. The more accessible essays strike many readers as the unjustified ravings of a pessimistic elitist. Sympathetic readers excuse these apparent faults as marks of integrity and as the only writing strategies available to a philosopher who has come to doubt modern philosophy's ability to address the human condition. As such, his obscurities and exaggerations appear to be deliberate, defensible strategies for liberating readers from historically acquired blinders. He warned that the nuances of his German writings are untranslatable.

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