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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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A Precarious Balance

A Precarious Balance

Rereading German Classicism

(p.129) 5 A Precarious Balance
The Fleeting Promise of Art

Peter Uwe Hohendahl

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines Theodor Adorno's arguments regarding the role of the concept of classicism in German literary history by focusing on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It considers Adorno's essay “On the Classicism of Goethe's Iphigenia,” delivered as a public lecture at the Free University in Berlin in 1967, in which he articulated his position in the complex postwar discussion about the function and value of the German literary tradition. It argues that Adorno's essay on Goethe's play Iphigenia in Tauris is anything but a polemic. It also explains how Adorno opens up a dimension of meaning that calls into question the notion of cultural superiority commonly associated with the concept of German classicism without dismissing it as pure ideology. Finally, the chapter discusses Adorno's critical assessment of the concept of realism through his two short essays on Honoré de Balzac, in which he explores the link between representation and social reality.

Keywords:   realism, Theodor Adorno, German literary history, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German literary tradition, Iphigenia in Tauris, cultural superiority, German classicism, Honoré de Balzac, social reality

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