Art and Enlightenment: Aesthetic Theory after Adorno

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Overview

The crisis of tradition early in the twentieth century-signaled by the collapse of perspective in painting and tonality in music and evident in the explosive ferment of the avant-garde movements-opened a new stage of modern art, which aesthetic theory is still struggling to comprehend. David Roberts situates the current aesthetic and cultural debates in a wider historical frame which extends from Hegel and the German Romantics to Lukács and Adorno, Benjamin and Baudrillard. Art and Enlightenment: Aesthetic Theory after Adorno is the first detailed analysis in English of Theodor Adorno's seminal Philosophy of Modern Music, which can be seen as a turning point between modern and postmodern art and theory.

Adorno's diagnosis of the crisis of modernist values points back to Hegel's thesis of the end of art and also forward to the postmodernist debate. Thus the paradoxes of Adorno's negative aesthetics return to haunt the current discussion by representatives of the second generation of the Frankfurt School, Anglo-American Marxism, and French poststructuralism. Going beyond Adorno's dialectic of musical enlighten-ment, Roberts proposes an alternative model of the enlightenment, of art applied to literature and exemplified in the outline of a theory of parody. In its critique of Adorno, Art and Enlightenment clears the way for a reconsideration of twentieth-century artistic theory and practice and also, in offering a model of postmodern art, seeks to disentangle critical issues in the discussion of the avant-garde, modernism, and postmodernism.

David Roberts, Reader in German at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, is coeditor of the journal Thesis Eleven. He is the author of The Indirections of Desire: Hamlet in Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister" (1980) and other books.

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Editorial Reviews

German Studies Review

"A very stimulating, educative asset for all scholars of German art history, philosophy, music, and literature who are interested in the postmodern paradigm shift."—German Studies Review
Martin Jay

"An extremely timely and original assessment of the current state of aesthetic theory, or, more precisely, aesthetic practice as reflected in that theory. Using Adorno's analysis of modern music as his starting point, Roberts constructs a model of twentieth-century artistic developments and their theoretical implications that draws on and criticizes a wide variety of important contemporary thinkers. The subject touches on many of the central issues now surrounding the heated international debate over postmodernism."—Martin Jay, author of Adorno.
Library Journal
Theodor Adorno's Philosophy of Modern Music was a key work in the attempt to bring aesthetic theory to modern art. Using Adorno's text as a centerpiece for critical analysis, Roberts places 20th-century aesthetic debates within a framework ranging backwards in time to Hegel and forward to the present postmodern period. Roberts has done a superb job here, and this book should win a solid place in the philosophy of art. The reader should be warned, however, that it is not easy going: Roberts assumes a fairly deep knowledge on the part of those approaching his book. But for those properly prepared, the effort will be well rewarded. Recommended for specialists in the field and for graduate programs in the philosophy of art.-- Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ., Lennoxville, Quebec
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Product Details

Meet the Author


David Roberts, Reader in German at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, is coeditor of the journal Thesis Eleven. He is the author of The Indirections of Desire: Hamlet in Goethe’s "Wilhelm Meister" (1980) and other books.
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