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Benjamin, Lukàcs, Brecht, Adorno: The Search for Revolutionary Aesthetics (PH967)

On this module you will explore the materialist critique of bourgeois aesthetics by four eminent philosophical thinkers: Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Georg Lukàcs and Theodor W. Adorno.

All four thinkers ascribe an epistemological value to art and develop a philosophical framework within which modern literature is supposed to fulfil a critical function. The core of the module focuses on the mutually fruitful relationship between Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht and their attempts to devise a self-consciously modernist materialist aesthetic that takes leave of central Kantian premises.

Benjamin’s and Brecht’s configuration of a non-subject-centred aesthetics is a response to a critical point in the history of modernity and an attempt to construct an emphatic experience of the modernist present. This is followed by Lukàcs’ critique of Modernism’s epistemological claims and Adorno’s critiques of both Lukàcs and Brecht’s positions in two of his central essays. Adorno’s programmatic essay ‘Cultural Criticism and Society’ that develops Critical Theory’s position vis-à-vis culture in the age of late Capitalism, concludes the module.

Core texts include:

Walter Benjamin: Illuminations, Pimlico, London, 1999
Bertolt Brecht: St.Joan of the Stockyards, Mother Courage and her Children, Methuen.
Brecht on Theatre, Methuen, London, 1978.
Essays by Adorno, Lukács in: Aesthetics and Politics, Verso, London, 1980


Module Director:

Helmut Schmitz


This module is worth either 20 or 30 CATS depending on your programme of study.

Kant and 19th Century Post-Kantian Philosophy Research Cluster