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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Adorno...Beauty's Wounds

Dear Clifford Duffy (et al)

Your meditation on the poetry of Paul Celan contained much that was
powerful. Your words on Celan's poems are close to my own experience,
and I am envious, not having heard the recordings. 'Another kind of
voice' strikes me as exactly right. As someone who values intensely
Celan's shards, I must also agree that there is more worth in Adorno's
recantation than in his apparent proscription of silence. And yet why
did Celan and Adorno correspond if all Adorno had to offer was a moral
muzzling? I hope you all will forgive an over lengthy reply, which is
perhaps a complement to Brian Holmes' post of 7/4.

I saw a dreadful picture in your post: Celan between Adorno and
Heidegger; between one who apparently wished him to be silent for the
sake of what he couldn't say and another who wished him to speak, but
not at all of that which he could not say. To complete the tableux,
Celan silences himself  by withdrawing 'Death Fugue', to prevent his
attempt to say what he could not say from becoming a model for saying 
its metrics analysed and all). The terrible nature of this image
certainly has a strong truth, but it is not, I think, right, or at least
not all right, in ways which are important for what you go on to write. 
The post contained a paraphrase of Adorno as saying, in response  to
'Death Fugue'.
>This is too beautiful One cannot write Beautiful poems about the
>Holocaust. One can only be silent in the face of what happened there.
'No lyric poetry after Auschwitz', Adorno did say, which means, in part,
no beauty that is not at the same time denied. How can there be an image
of reconciliation in a world in which such things are possible? How can
any utopia, which always has its foundation in what is, serve otherwise
than to confirm that things as they are contain the basis of happiness?
Such an accomodation can be found in the very form of the work. Beauty,
if it is to be at all, can only be an accusing absence, an unfulfilled
promise. Adorno saw this in Celan's works, albeit somewhat late in
regard to 'Death Fugue' (and one has to ask if he was entirely wrong
about that. Look what happened
to the poem. Not that this was not a terrible fate for the work, but in
Adorno's favour is the ability of the work to be read in that way - as
'beautiful' according to the pedagogical tenets; 'extorted
reconciliation' indeed). Adorno had written on other of Celan's (later)
poems, and with an intense critical approval, before his (late)
recantation on 'Death Fugue'.
In no way did Adorno insist upon Celan's silence. The implication in a
passage of your post that Adorno's comments might have had a part in
Celan's suicide, let alone the Plato aside, seems to me to be simply not
true. Adorno held Celan's works to be amongst the most valuable of his
time. What Adorno saw in Celan, if I might offer a stunningly banal
suggestion, was, in a sense, his failure - that the poems struggle to
make a true form through the slick mechanics of a language and that the
struggle, the inability, and the concommitant failure of self are what
marks the poems. Each poem does not make a whole, even as it desperately
hopes for some unity that might enable it (and author/reader) to be
otherwise. It is not 'one can only be silent', but 'that which cannot be
spoken', marked in the caesuras, gaps, failures, because one cannot stop
speaking. If Adorno meant a total silence then what of his own
comparison of Beckett's landscapes to that of the world after the
Holocaust (which is not as trite as I have made it sound)? 

It is Adorno's refusal to accept that all things can be spoken of (now)
which leads me to disagree with parts of the post. These are contained
in the passages on the dialectic and on technology. Pardon me if I add
my comments in response .
>Back to Adorno. And his enlightened dialectic. Dialectic claims
>to synethize two contradictions. And to created a higher synthesis. To
>cancel out one false aspect of the problem and thereby create a
>so-called resolution of the problem. 
Even in Hegel, the supposed triad - thesis, antithesis, synthesis - of
the dialectic doesn't usually exist. It doesn't work that way, except in
certain crude Marxisms and for right wing Hegelians, past and present.
At the points where such a triad does appear in Hegel, the synthesis
brings with it a new contradiction. It is not a question of 'cancelling
out a false aspect', as the elements are preserved in the synthesis
(aufhebung, which is both a cancelling and an uplifting). In the
dialectic, no element is false. Moreover, and more to the point,
Adorno's dialectic is a  negative dialectic, resolutely aimed at undoing
the appearance of totality. 'The whole is the false', he commented, on
which more below.

>Well. It does not work. We have
>seen the results of the dialectic when it takes this form. The only
>dialectic which can be safely employed is one which is controlled by
>regulative principles. In that way one controls the all too dangerous
>totalizations that result from the excesses of an uncontrolled
>dialetical process no longer in touch with the real problems of every
>day life and history as it is expereinced.  
For Adorno, the false totalisation was already present, and precisely in
'everyday life and history as it is experienced'. The totalisation was
not only that of a Stalinist extortion, but of exchange value and the
commodity form, whose effects were all too clearly marked in euro/north
american thought and language. A petty example I can't resist are his
comments on a tin pan alley song called 'In an Eighteenth-century
Drawing-room'. "The yearning for paradise has degenerated into the
yearning for the hit song which itself feeds upon that very yearning.
'Hear their two hearts softly beat,/one moment more and their lips will
meet./What a sweet and charming picture,/love in glory love in
bloom,/don't you wish that we were in an eighteenth century
drawing-room?' No." The condemned man comes to love his cell, as it is
put elsewhere. The totalisation lies in the domination of self and
world/other by 'identity thinking'. Whether a culture industry pluralism
which feeds upon an already 'internal' marginality is at root much
different is a moot point.

>The dangers of totalization
>can be only be guarded against by a process of de-totalizing and
>retotalizing.  This is paralled in the thinking of Deleuze and Guattari
>by what they call deterritorializing and reterritorializing. A similar
>movement yet not identical. Adorno's work does not offer a methdology
>which allows for the co-existence of impossible abnegation and
>irreconciable difference.  It attempts to resolve what cannot be
>resolved into a  'higher' unity. 
But to me Adorno's work is entirely concerned with irreconcilable
difference. He does not aim to 'resolve' but to unresolve what has
already been violently made 'whole'.

>And which many people have No desire to
>see resolved. Why would a slave want to resolve his servitude to his
>'master?' If he did he would remain in slavery. A higher unity of
>slavery and mastery. Which leads us back to Hegel who after is the
>originator of the basics concepts which have formuated the modern idea
>of dialectics.
In the section on Lord and Bondsman in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit,
it is only the bondsman who can move beyond that state, i.e. move beyond
a concept of the world as 'for self', both by being 'defeated' in the 
initial intersubjective struggle, and by his labour. The Lord cannot. It
is, I must add, a metaphor for Hegel. Not only Marx but Fanon also
spring to mind. Might I also suggest that a 'resolution' of master and
slave might see the destruction of both categories, not an accomodation
to them?

>Adorno's ideas about technology and by extension the web have
>also to be seen critically. HE ideas represent a typical looking
>backward to the old dualities of machine versus the human of will verus
>power of organic verus non-organic. 
Again, I'm afraid, I must disagree. The central concern of the Dialectic
of Enlightenment is with a two-fold nature of a form of rationality. It
enables humans to separate themselves from nature, and thus the
dominance of the mythic, but this entails also a dominance over the self
and others -
a rationality which thereby subjects the human to a new myth.
Technology, for Adorno, because of the socio-historical context in which
it is developed and deployed, aids and intensifies that process. It is
not the 'fault' of technology, nor is this the only way in which it
could be deployed. If we take the use of any material whatsoever as a
form of technology (and that includes language) then it is absolutely
neccessary - the historical nature of the material is a fundamental part
of the  artwork, for instance. 'Nature' has long since ceased to exist
for Adorno. He is  not simply some exponent of 'Zivilisationkritik', no
golden ages exist for mandarin nostalgic yearnings. Adorno could well be
of value for thinking about the net, precisely because it isn't
technology per se, but the  social organisation of technology and the
forms of the work in that medium that are of significance for him. Brian
Holmes post, for me, suggested some openings for thinking this, as well
as some valuable reflections on the limits and validity of Adorno's
'false whole'.

>He has no means of integrating such
>sophisticaed ideas as desire-machine, or body without organs, or plane
>of consistency. Nor has he the means of thinking (I mean this in exact
>transitive sense of actually thinking the object at hand, and not
>thinking about it) multiplicity as that which adds to the already made.
These ideas are somewhat prefigured in early German Romanticism, and I
wouldn't agree that Adorno has no means of addressing them. If you mean
that he wouldn't whole heartedly approve of them, then yes. As to the
means of 'thinking... multiplicity', this is at the core of his every
work. What he refuses is to turn multiplicity into an abstract concept
by simply opposing the particular to the general. It is the
irreconcilable tension between the two which is at stake for him. How to
show that irreconcilablity without resolving it? Celan does, but cannot
become a 'model' for exactly that reason.

>...He had a pre-conceived model of what should
>and should not be written about. Whereas plenty of poets and painters
>who lived through the Holocaust did indeed write  about it. And their
>writing was 'beautiful' but one can only conceive of that beauty in
>terms of new ethical-aesthetic series of paradigms which allow one to
>think subjects and objects for themselves and not via an exterior and
>pre-imposed standard. That is precisely where the classical dialetic
>fails. It does not address experience. This is was Kierkegaard's
>critique of Hegel long ago. The individual with all her flaws and
>contradictions cannot be resolved into a dialetical synthesis.
Can I recommend Adorno's critiques of both Hegel ('Three Studies') and
Kierkegaard ('Kierkegaard. Construction of the Aesthetic')? What 'new
ethical-aesthetic series of paradigms which allow one to think subject
and object for themselves' are available still seems to me a valid
question.  It might be a 'new' beauty, but to be able to think/see such
things now appears to my Adornian side to offer little but more
reconciliation with what is. A suspicion of any 'paradigm' that made
such a claim strikes me  as  warranted. As Adorno puts it near at end of
Minima Moralia:

"The only philosophy which can be responsibly practised in the face of
despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present
themselves from the standpoint of redemption....Perspectives must be
fashioned that displace and estrange the world, reveal it to be, with
its rifts and crevices, as indigent and distorted as it will appear one
day in the messianic light. To gain such perspectives without velleity
or  vilence, entirely from felt contact with its objects - this alone is
the task of thought. It is the simplest of all things, because the
situation demands imperatively for such knowledge, indeed because
consumate negativity, once squarely faced, delineates the mirror image
of its opposite. But it is  also the utterly impossible thing, because
it presupposes a standpoint removed, even though by a hairsbreadth, from
the scope of existence... The more passionately thought denies its
conditionality for the sake of the unconditional, the more
unconsciously, and so calamitously, it is  delivered up to the world.
Even its own impossibility it must at last comprehend for the sake of
the possible".

This does not set a framework, or 'resolve' anything. It is a call to
thought; difficult, painful thought which has to face its own
situatedness and distortion as its very condition of existence.



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