The Persistence of Memory
Aporetic Guilt and the Promise of Art: on sacrifice and refraction in Adorno’s Negative Aesthetics
Misinterpreted equally by devotee and critic, Adorno’s aesthetic theory, fifty years after its mature appearance, continues to be subject to the reductive claims of elitism, pessimism, or irrationalism. In challenging these three points of contention, this lecture seeks to demonstrate the inexhaustible, enigmatic claims of Adorno’s philosophy, and what its recovery might offer contemporary reflections on the state of artistic production, ethical praxis, and conceptual knowledge today. Underlined by the politico-aesthetic critique of modernity, this lecture will show how Adorno, bound between the aesthetic philosophies of Kant and Hegel, the social critiques of Marx and Nietzsche, and the musical developments from Beethoven to Schoenberg, theorizes the dissonant collapse of the utopian imaginary, a moment of loss memorialized in authentic art.
In tracing the history of this lament, from Kant’s reflexive judgement through to Adorno’s own philosophy of non-identity and its explicit hero, Samuel Beckett, a central question will emerge: if poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric, and life itself questionable, then what remains of art’s famed promesse du bonheur once its claims of reintegration and affirmation are shattered by the horrors of modern suffering. Haunting the vision of progress, is art bashed to the irrelevance of subjective taste or ideological complicity, or can its memory persist to adequately refract and assist the plight of a fundamentally false society?