Adorno and the Crisis of the Contemporary. 2012 ACLA, 3/29-4/1, Brown University

full name / name of organization: 
Weihsin Gui
contact email: 

This seminar explores the salience of Theodor Adorno's work for engaging with the emerging language of collapse, catastrophe, and crisis in literary studies and the humanities as a contemporary problem. Compared to other scholars whose work on empire, states of exception, and neoliberal governmentality seem more timely, Adorno is not often invoked in recent discussions of crisis.

However, in the opening lines of _Dialectic of Enlightenment_, Adorno and Max Horkheimer observe that "the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity"; in _Negative Dialectics_, Adorno comments that philosophy still exists because we missed the opportunity to realize it in socio-political life; in _Aesthetic Theory_, Adorno presupposes the "end of art" — dramatized in the encounter between Odysseus and the Sirens — even while postponing the meaning of art's "end."  Calamitous enlightenment, philosophy's belatedness and art's untimeliness are some aspects of Adorno's critique of the crisis of late capitalism mediated through culture and aesthetics. By this we suggest not only that capitalism pervasively generates crises, but also that the concept of "crisis" itself can and must be rigorously analyzed and critiqued through its attendant cultural forms.

We invite papers on the following: connections between any aspect of Adorno's work and ideas of "crisis" and "the contemporary" in their broadest sense; the influence of Adorno on other critics' discussions of crisis and catastrophe; analyses of contemporary literary, visual, and other cultural texts about crises that engage with Adorno's work. While the seminar's focus is on Adorno, we also welcome papers that discuss other Frankfurt School critics whose work can help us reassess Adorno's relevance for our contemporary moment.

Please contact Weihsin Gui -- -- for more information or to propose a paper. All proposals will need to be submitted on the ACLA's website by Nov 15, 2011.