Expression and suffering: reflections on Adorno's materialism

Mortazavi, Emadodin (2012) Expression and suffering: reflections on Adorno's materialism. (MA(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


My dissertation explicates and defends a peculiar understanding of materialism latent in Theodor Adorno's oeuvre through a re-articulation of concepts of "suffering" and "expression". In order to do so, these two concepts have been elaborated separately and then it has been demonstrated immanently how they are entwined and how this entwinement creates a context for revealing Adorno's materialism. Chapter one is dedicated to the concept of "expression". It begins with an outline of Walter Benjamin's idea of language and his attempt for recovery of its expressive characteristic. I strive to explain the influence of Benjamin in formation of the idea of expression as the task of negative dialetics for Adorno and show the way this idea flourishes in Adorno's writing styke and philosophical representation in the light of his materialism. The second part of this chapter investigates the concept of expression in 'Aesthetic Theory' and preswents it in articulation with concepts like "semblance" and "mimesis" as well as "nature" and "subjectivity". "suffering" is the main theme of the second chapter which I trace it back in various moments of Adorno's philosophical project: idea of natural history, subject-object dialetic, domination of nature and etc. In this chapter I discuss why Adorno thematizes "suffering" not as an ontological concept but as socio-historical one and consdiers its expression as "the condition of all truth". Here, I concentrate on the relation between objectivity and suffering via critical engagement with different relation between objectivity and suffering via critical engagement with different political and utopian reading of Adorno in this context. My final chapter is a reading of the expression as/of suffering and suffering of expression. I argue how Adorno's materialist thought becomes possible by taking the form of stammering and expressing "what cannot be said" and admitting to its inevitable failure in this task while preserves the moment of revelation of the historical truth.

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