Benjamin, Adorno, and the Experience of Literature  book cover
1st Edition

Benjamin, Adorno, and the Experience of Literature

ISBN 9780367666286
Published September 30, 2020 by Routledge
266 Pages

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Book Description

This collection features original essays that examine Walter Benjamin’s and Theodor Adorno’s essays and correspondence on literature. Taken together, the essays present the view that these two monumental figures of 20th-century philosophy were not simply philosophers who wrote about literature, but that they developed their philosophies in and through their encounters with literature.

Benjamin, Adorno, and the Experience of Literature is divided into three thematic sections. The first section contains essays that directly demonstrate the ways in which literature enriched the thinking of Benjamin and Adorno. It explores themes that are recognized to be central to their thinking—mimesis, the critique of historical progress, and the loss and recovery of experience—through their readings of literary authors such as Baudelaire, Beckett, and Proust. The second section continues the trajectory of the first by bringing together four essays on Benjamin’s and Adorno’s reading of Kafka, whose work helped them develop a distinctive critique of and response to capitalism. The third and final section focuses more intently on the question of what it means to gain authentically critical insight into a literary work. The essays examine Benjamin’s response to specific figures, including Georg Büchner, Robert Walser, and Julien Green, whose work he sees as neglected, undigested, or misunderstood.

This book offers a unique examination of two pivotal 20th-century philosophers through the lens of their shared experiences with literature. It will appeal to a wide range of scholars across philosophy, literature, and German studies.

Table of Contents


Corey McCall and Nathan Ross

Part I. Benjamin and Adorno: Literary Themes and Philosophical Debates

1. Against the Reification of History: Benjamin and Adorno on Baudelaire

Corey McCall

2. Theatrum Philosophicum: Thinking Literature and Politics with Walter Benjamin

Oscar Guardiola-Rivera

3. Adorno and Beckett: Aesthetic Mimēsis and The Language of ‘The New’

Marcia Morgan

4. Abysmal Humanity: Anthropological Materialism in Georg Büchner and Walter Benjamin

Cat Moir

Part II. Kafka: ‘Fairy Tales for Dialecticians’

5. Breaking the Mythic Organization of Life: On Literary Form and Political Tendency in Benjamin’s Reading of Kafka

Nathan Ross

6. The Virtue or Power of the Useless: Benjamin and Adorno on Kafka

Idit Dobbs-Weinstein

7. Discovering the Truth of Sancho Panza: The Meaning of Comedy in Adorno’s and Benjamin’s Differing Readings of Don Quixote

Meanchem Feuer

Part III. Proust: Recovering Experience

8. The Proustian Roots of Adorno’s Idea of Social Criticism

Roger Foster

9. Seeing-In, Seeing-Through: Adorno and the Platonism of Proust

Owen Hulatt

Part IV: From Hölderlin to Walser: Poetic Afterlives

10. Hölderlin’s Aesthetic Critique of Modernity

Michael J. Thompson

11. Benjamin on Hölderlin’s Poetic Cosmos

Hyun Höchsmann

12. Wo bist Du Nachdenkliches! Poetic Determinability in Hölderlin and Walser

Stéphane Symons

13. Robert Walser as an Undigested Literary Phenomenon

Jeffrey A. Bernstein

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Corey McCall is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Elmira College, USA

Nathan Ross is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Oklahoma City University, USA