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Adorno und Derrida. Bemerkungen zu ihren unterschiedlichen "asthetischen Konzeptionen. [German text]

Holger Mathias Briel, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation concerns itself with a comparison of the differing aesthetic theories set forth by Theodor W. Adorno and Jacques Derrida. After an introduction to the varying backgrounds informing Adorno and Derrida, Neo-Marxism and a certain kind of Heideggerian Phenomenology respectively, the dissertation then describes the most relevant points of these theories to this discussion and furthermore, how these transform any exegesis of literary texts. Subjects under discussion are the historic background of literary texts, truth-value in a piece of art, the question of societal relevance to/of literature, negativity in art, the critique of subjectivity, the question of the "text" and the relationship of literature to philosophy. These items are then further developed in critical practice; for that purpose, Adorno's essays on Stefan George and Derrida's work on Paul Celan were chosen. It is being argued that while Adorno takes a prescriptive stance on some issues of literature (e.g. canonization and a rejection of newer art forms), when it comes to the societal applications of literature, it is Adorno's theory that is better able to account for these, since it has a framework which allows for minute descriptions of these processes. On the other hand, Derridean text analyses can be more yielding due to various theoretical constructs such as differance, trace, dissemination, but his theory lacks a working definition for a societal grounding of literature, thereby seriously impeding its own progress. This becomes clear in his treatment of Paul Celan. While he is able to interpret many facets of Celan's poetry and theory of writing in a very interesting way, the one aspect informing all of Celan's writings, the Holocaust, is left aside. Due to the Derridan theory's lack of grounding in actual history, the historical fact of the Holocaust cannot inform his own writing, thereby cutting short an otherwise invigorating and extensive hermeneutical interpretation. Both theories have their advantages, but as theory geared toward societal change, Adorno's theory proves to be more yielding. ^

Subject Area

Comparative literature|German literature|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Briel, Holger Mathias, "Adorno und Derrida. Bemerkungen zu ihren unterschiedlichen "asthetischen Konzeptionen. [German text]" (1991). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9120856.