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Cultural Criticism and Aesthetic Theory: Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno

GRST 250
Fall 2010
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: COL 253
Certificates: Jewish and Israel Studies, Social, Cultural and Critical Theory

This lecture course is designed to provide an introduction to the cultural criticisms and aesthetic theories of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, two of the 20th century's most path-breaking, influential left-wing thinkers and critics. Our aim will be to illuminate the intimate interconnections between cultural criticism and aesthetic theory in the 20th century. We will study the objectives, intellectual origins, cultural contexts, and methods of Benjamin's and Adorno's uniquely individual yet also closely related practices of cultural criticism. Further, we will examine the assumptions underlying their aesthetic writings and seek to reconstruct their respective contributions to aesthetics. The discourse of cultural criticism relies on political and sociological analytical notions such as revolution and reaction, estrangement and reification, or social antagonism and ideology; the discourse of aesthetic theory relies on canonical concepts of the philosophy of art, such as semblance and imitation or beauty and the sublime, as well as the more properly modernist aesthetic phenomena like distraction, dissonance, and shock. Benjamin and Adorno combine both discourses in a new way, augment them with the vocabularies of psychoanalysis and theology, examine the increasing role of advanced technologies of producing, distributing, and receiving culture, and thus offer an astonishingly comprehensive investigation of modernity's most pressing intellectual questions, artistic practices, social contradictions and cultural phenomena.

Essential Capabilities: Intercultural Literacy, Interpretation
Interpretation: This course will help students acquire the tools and vocabulary for understanding philosophically challenging texts and arguments.

Intercultural Literacy: This course explores the respective cultural criticisms of two similar thinkers representing German-Jewish intellectual culture in the shadow of the Holocaust.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA GRST
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Student Option
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (COL)(CSCT)(GRST-MN)(GRST)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on SEP-22-2023
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