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Centre for Research in Philosophy, Literature and The Arts Events, 2019/2020

Unless otherwise stated, CRPLA seminars take place on Tuesdays, 5:30-7:00pm in Room S0.11 (ground floor of Social Studies). All welcome. For further information, please contact Diarmiud Costello:

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CRPLA Seminar: Antonia Hofstätter (Warwick) – 'Falling Stars, Dying Planets, and the Limits of Natural Beauty: Reflections on Adorno’s Aesthetics in the Age of the Anthropocene'

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Location: A0.23 (Soc Sci) and on Teams


Adorno’s aesthetics are currently undergoing a renaissance. The reason, it seems, lies not in their potential contribution to the analyses of contemporary artworks, but in Adorno’s unorthodox rethinking of the notion of natural beauty. In their resemblance to natural beauty, ‘successful’ artworks, Adorno claims, promise the end of the domination of nature. In thus providing an intellectual resource for conceptualizing non-instrumental modes of comportment toward the natural world, the appeal of ‘natural beauty’ to contemporary scholarship is hardly surprising. Taking my cue from Adorno’s historically situated approach, however, I would like to problematize this current intellectual trend. In my paper, I will first lend substance to Adorno’s notion of natural beauty by unpacking his reading of a passage in Beethoven’s piano sonata in D minor, Op.31 No. 2, in which a falling star seems to appear on the firmament. I will then move to Adorno’s reflections on the closing bars of Mahler’s Lied von der Erde, which, I contend, register an inversion of the Beethovenian perspective. My tracing of these two distinct aesthetic and metaphysical constellations aims not only at elucidating the complex concept of natural beauty but, crucially, at drawing out the historically contingent and shifting aesthetic experiences which they presuppose. Ultimately, I will raise the question whether the aesthetic experiences that informed Adorno’s approach to art and aesthetics – and which are indebted to the experience of beauty in nature – still resonate with us today.

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