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The Fleeting Promise of ArtAdorno's Aesthetic Theory Revisited$
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Peter Uwe Hohendahl

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780801452369

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801452369.001.0001

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Aesthetic Violence

Aesthetic Violence

The Concepts of the Ugly and Primitive

(p.79) 3 Aesthetic Violence
The Fleeting Promise of Art

Peter Uwe Hohendahl

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the function of the ugly in Aesthetic Theory, with particular emphasis on the primitive and the archaic. It first considers the meaning of the ugly in relation to Theodor Adorno's understanding of classical aesthetics and his assessment of modern art. It then discusses Adorno's argument against Igor Stravinsky in The Philosophy of Modern Music, and especially his claim that the composer has regressed to classical tonality and flirted with folk art and the primitive as a means of critiquing modern culture. It also explores Adorno's distinction between two modes of the ugly: a positive formalist version utilized by Arnold Schoenberg and a negative one in Stravinsky. It argues that Adorno was more deeply involved in the interpretation of primitive, non-European art than expected, and that he admits the archaic and ugly to the realm of art as a reminder of past and present horror.

Keywords:   ugly, Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, primitive, aesthetics, modern art, Igor Stravinsky, The Philosophy of Modern Music, Arnold Schoenberg, archaic

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