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Aesthetics of Negativity$
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William S. Allen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780823269280

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823269280.001.0001

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The Language-Like Quality of the Artwork

The Language-Like Quality of the Artwork

(p.161) 6 The Language-Like Quality of the Artwork
Aesthetics of Negativity

William S. Allen

Fordham University Press

The central notion of Adorno’s aesthetics is his understanding of the dialectic of mimesis and rationality, which develops out of his work in Dialectic of Enlightenment and is then reconceived in Aesthetic Theory. For artworks, the dialectic of mimesis and rationality operates through what Adorno calls the language-like quality of the work. This means that the work bears both conceptual (rational) and non-conceptual (mimetic) aspects that come together in the way that the work expresses itself like a language: bearing sensuous similarities to other things but also expressing meanings that can be articulated. The combination of these aspects is what constitutes the identity of the work, so that what it is in itself is inflected by its material particularity as well as its conceptual universals, and it is this inter-relation that is to be understood as its autonomy.

Keywords:   aesthetics, dialectics, identity, language, mimesis, similarity

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