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Things Beyond Resemblance

Things Beyond Resemblance: Collected Essays on Theodor W. Adorno

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    Things Beyond Resemblance
    Book Description:

    Theodor W. Adorno was a major twentieth-century philosopher and social critic whose writings on oppositional culture in art, music, and literature increasingly stand at the center of contemporary intellectual debate. In this excellent collection, Robert Hullot-Kentor, widely regarded as the most distinguished American translator and commentator on Adorno, gathers together sixteen essays he has written about the philosopher over the past twenty years.

    The opening essay, "Origin Is the Goal," pursues Adorno's thesis of the dialectic of enlightenment to better understand the urgent social and political situation of the United States. "Back to Adorno" examines Adorno's idea that sacrifice is the primordial form of human domination; "Second Salvage" reconstructs Adorno's unfinished study of the transformation of music in radio transmission; and "What Is Mechanical Reproduction" revisits Adorno's criticism of Walter Benjamin. Further essays cover a broad range of topics: Adorno's affinities with Wallace Stevens and Nabokov, his complex relationship with Kierkegaard and psychoanalysis, and his critical study of popular music.

    Many of these essays have been revised, with new material added that emphasizes the relevance of Adorno's thought to the United States today. Things Beyond Resemblance is a timely and richly analytical collection crucial to the study of critical theory, aesthetics, continental philosophy, and Adorno.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51003-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Origin Is the Goal
    (pp. 1-22)

    Written in the imperative in 1989, the essay that leads this collection—“Back to Adorno”—urged renewed interest in the oeuvre of a philosopher and social critic who had been consigned to temporal backwaters both in Europe and the United States. In Europe Adorno had by that year already undergone two decades of a second exile, not, as in his own lifetime, as a Jew from Germany but as a posthumous exile from European political and philosophical consciousness: in a matter of months after his refusal to support the revolutionary student activism of soixante-huit and having summoned the police to...

  5. Back to Adorno
    (pp. 23-44)

    The only legitimate “back to” is one that calls for a return to what was never reached in the first place, which is the case with Adorno’s writings. In America, his life work was born into a bottle. While this bottle may be about to burst, to date every conceivable reason has contributed to the delay in his work being better known here, from the pall that has fallen over the knowledge of the German language since WWII, to the unfamiliarity of the idealist tradition, to the decline of Marxism. Not least in importance has been the overshadowing vogue of...

  6. Things Beyond Resemblance
    (pp. 45-66)

    Even after translation into English, T.W. Adorno’s words still seem to want to linger at least half in German, as if continuing to long for something in the original that they cannot find in this language. They have good reason: acute and ancient differences in the intellectual experience that these two languages have undergone continually obliges philosophical translation at crucial juncture to choose between meaningless fluency and the indecipherably meaningful. This division in experience, however, must certainly not be imagined as traveling down some central boundary, parsing carefully to the left of German and to the right of English, but...

  7. The Philosophy of Dissonance
    (pp. 67-76)
    Schoenberg Adorno

    Theodor W. Adorno and Arnold Schoenberg are two of the most uncompromising figures of the twentieth century. Photographs of them in old age witness the clenched stubbornness of an African fetish reappearing in their faces. The intensity of this spirit shaped and penetrated every detail of their work. In his Theory of Harmony, for example, it compelled Schoenberg the educator to disclaim the book’s massive pedagogical effort. After four hundred pages of careful and sometimes bombastic instruction, reasons for the book are increasingly met by counter reasons, until the two sides come to grips in a locked tangle. At one...

  8. Critique of the Organic: Kierkegaard and the Construction of the Aesthetic
    (pp. 77-93)

    This is an unlikely spot for a Yiddish story, but nevertheless: the chancellor rushes into the throne room and informs the king that the harvest has been infected; whoever eats from it falls insane. He urges the king to seize what untainted stores remain and rule a mad people sanely. The king refuses; he will not be separated from his people. “Instead” he tells his chancellor, “we will make signs on our foreheads so that when we are mad we will know what has happened.” The idea of a mark that would awaken them from history turned disaster bears some...

  9. Second Salvage: Prolegomenon to a Reconstruction of Current of Music
    (pp. 94-124)

    The centenary of T. W. Adorno’s birth was a lugubrious display internationally, but most of all in Germany. There the event was headed up by a brace of three heavily shod biographies trudging in decade-long synchronization toward the publishing occasion, as if the goal were to make sure that no detail of Adorno’s life went untrampled. Even Adorno’s writing table and chair were dragged into the Frankfurt ceremonies. Encased in a silicone cube, these mundane furnishings were established as a national treasure to be visited on Adornoplatz in hometown perpetuum. Suhrkamp Publishers and the Goethe Institute, working closely with a...

  10. Title Essay: Baroque Allegory and “The Essay as Form”
    (pp. 125-135)

    From Minima Moralia to Metacritique of Epistemology (Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie)¹ the titles of Adorno’s works are intentionally concrete forms. They seek to title emphatically, as names: “A title must hit home like a name.”² For Adorno the title becomes a name in the mediation of art and concept, presentation and concept: Aesthetic Theory is a theory of aesthetics, a theory that is itself aesthetic. Philosophy of New Music (subjective and objective genitive) is a philosophy of music, one that is itself somehow musical. These titles claim that the work they contain is the presentation of the object itself. Aesthetic Theory...

  11. What Is Mechanical Reproduction?
    (pp. 136-153)

    A geological hammock architecturally tethered at one end by its own shopping mall—foot by foot the most profitable in the American West—and at the other by Hoover Tower, its own right-wing think tank, Stanford University is slung up against the last mountain range this side of the Pacific coastline, its glens and palm-studded courts crisscrossed by streams of pedaling students swathed in red sweat-shirts, some wearing red caps, all emblazoned with a primitivesque square-cut white capital “S.” It needs a theory, I thought, the first time I saw it, these precious children on bike-back: Why must they wear...

  12. Adorno Without Quotation
    (pp. 154-168)

    When Samuel Beckett learned that he was to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he disconnected the telephone, packed up, and went south, to deepest elsewhere and foolproof incommunicado. That story is known to many. By contrast a story known almost to none—until this moment—is that, before the sun had glimmered on the first full day of a yearlong schedule of official centennial celebrations to mark the birth of Theodor W. Adorno, Rolf Tiedemann—the founding director of the Theodor W. Adorno-Archiv, now emeritus, and the editor of Adorno’s Collected Writings—was already driving south from Frankfurt...

  13. Popular Music and “The Aging of the New Music”
    (pp. 169-179)

    A word against popular music sets most everyone on edge because of the urgency of the functions it must fulfill and because it cannot actually fulfill them. Popular music must libidinize dead space: on highways and through airport corridors; it must manufacture a busyness and direction to time that is in fact stagnant or anxiously, dully swirling; it must take up the slack of empty—usually wordless—waiting in stores, at home, in subways, at social events, and while waiting on telephone lines. In countless situations its role is to make time pass. Popular music is music that seeks to...

  14. The Impossibility of Music
    (pp. 180-189)

    The sphinx has in every age been proud of keeping up with the day and—his or her—latest riddle has once again hit square on the bull’s eye: “What are increasingly alike but have ever less in common?” The humorless beast has never once troubled to change the answer to any one of these puzzles, not when it can gloat that once in the hot seat no one ever gets the answer right, however notoriously invariant the answer. Yet the sphinx makes sure that the punishments inflicted keep up with the trends. Currently, the stumped, puzzled, and confounded are...

  15. Apple Criticizes Tree of Knowledge: A Review of One Sentence
    (pp. 190-192)

    Samuel Beckett is conjured out of his cave more than is decent, and most often to decorate expressive deficiency. This reviewer, too, may be repeatedly guilty of this compensatory subterfuge, and who doesn’t stand in hope of vivifying a foundering paragraph if all it takes to tag on a lightning bolt is the claim that something or other “is much like Beckett’s Endgame”? For the ease, however, with which Beckett’s work has lent itself to facile invocation Beckett himself deserves some blame. It is telling, for instance, that his writings never fell to the censor’s bludgeon, were never decried a...

  16. Right Listening and a New Type of Human Being
    (pp. 193-209)

    Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory is currently the object of considerable interest in this country. This is a good thing, but puzzling too. And it is this puzzle that here deserves to be addressed. The book is more distant from us than might be indicated by the immediate response the new translation has found. It, and Adorno’s philosophy as a whole, involve a way of making distinctions, types of distinctions, and experiences that are inimical to these shores; in our own heart of hearts, down home, they rub us the wrong way. If Adorno’s pronouncements on jazz have notoriously aggravated many, and...

  17. Ethics, Aesthetics, and the Recovery of the Public World
    (pp. 210-219)

    Clinging to the sides of one’s chair in dread anticipation of a discussion of ethics, aesthetics, and the public world is not needed. There is no intention here to launch into these matters with any pretense that they are genuinely alive to us, however much discussion they receive. Readers will not once again be summoned to prop forward as if the various debates implicit in the topic are just waiting for troops to join battle. Though not so long ago people did vigorously discuss these issues without too terrible a sense of putting themselves on, the concepts themselves and their...

  18. Suggested Reading
    (pp. 220-233)
    Jameson Adorno

    Frederic Jameson is one of the great tattooed men of our times. Every inch of flesh is covered: that web of cat’s cradles coiling up the right calf are Greimas and Levi-Strauss; dripping over the right shoulder, under the sign of the Cimabue Christ—the inverted crucifixion—hangs Derrida. And hardly recognizable in those many other overlapping splotches of color is just about everybody else: Lyotard, Sartre, Habermas, et al. “All One, All Different” scrolls across the panoramic chest. In Late Marxism¹ Jameson scouts carefully before setting portentious digit on a densely engraved quadrate of his left hip, Adorno! and...

  19. Introduction to T. W. Adorno’s “The Idea of Natural-History”
    (pp. 234-251)

    Theodor W. Adorno presented “The Idea of Natural-History”¹ on July 15, 1932, as a lecture at a meeting of the Frankfurt chapter of the Kant Society.² The society’s yearly register, published in its journal Kant-Studien, is an important document. That year its register lists Paul Tillich, who supervised Adorno’s inaugural dissertation, as the local director. Along with a variety of details, the society’s business address appears as “Horkheimer, Viktoria Allee 17.” A year later the register’s column for Frankfurt is blank except under the heading for local directors. There, in parentheses, catastrophe takes pains to prove its alliance with discretion:...

  20. The Idea of Natural-History
    (pp. 252-270)
    Theodor W. Adorno

    Allow me to preface my remarks today by saying that I am not going to give a lecture in the usual sense of communicating results or presenting a systematic statement. Rather, what I have to say will remain on the level of an essay; it is no more than an attempt to take up and further develop the problems of the so-called Frankfurt discussion.¹ I recognize that many uncomplimentary things have been said about this discussion, but I am equally aware that it approaches the problem correctly and that it would be wrong always to begin again at the beginning....

  21. Notes
    (pp. 271-304)
  22. Index
    (pp. 305-322)