Course Description

adornoThe writings of German philosophers and critics Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Siegfried Kracauer questioned, not only the canon of traditional literature and art, but the entire existence of the aesthetic in modern society. Highly attuned to the formal registers of individual works, these critics at the same time were eager to explore the broader social, political, and psychological implications of artistic practice in modernity. Their work has remained essential for any critical and theoretically informed engagement with the role of cultural expressions and aesthetic media through today. The task of this seminar is to explore their seminal essays, untangle their not always user-friendly arguments, and compare their various positions and interventions. Special attention will be given to their contributions to the development of literary theory, but also to their approaches to music, film, photography, exhibition practice, and aesthetic theory in general. Additional readings by Anglo-American theorists such as Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson, and Raymond Williams will be used to place the work of German Critical Theory in larger historical and critical context. All readings in English. Open to graduate and advanced undergraduate students.