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Cultural Criticism and Aesthetic Theory: Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno

GRST 250
Spring 2022
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: COL 302
Course Cluster and Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory Certificate

This seminar introduces and explores the cultural criticisms and aesthetic theories of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, two of the 20th century's most notable Marxist thinkers and critics. Our aim will be to illuminate the intimate interconnections between cultural criticism and aesthetic theory taking place concurrently with the rise of the artistic avant-gardes (with which both thinkers felt deep affinities). We will study the intellectual origins, cultural contexts, methods, and critical aims 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.

Over the course of the semester, we will study the works of our protagonists both on their own terms and in comparison to each other. Major thematic units will include (but are not limited to) their writings on literary aesthetics, narrative, and translation; architecture and the city (Naples, Moscow, Paris, Berlin); landscape and nature; mass culture and aesthetic autonomy. Our starting point will be Georg Luk√°cs's Theory of the Novel, a work to which both Benjamin and Adorno were much indebted. On occasion, we will supplement our explorations with asides from the 1920s and 1930s (by Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Siegfried Kracauer, Bertolt Brecht, Asja Lachs, Ernst Bloch) as well as scholarship for optional reading (by Susan Sontag, Hannah Arendt, Fredric Jameson, Susan Buck-Morss, Miriam Bratu Hansen, Susan Ingram, Judith Butler, Esther Leslie).
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA GRST
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode:
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (COL)(CSCT)(GRST-MN)(GRST)
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on JUL-12-2024
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