Adorno and the Modernist Avant-Garde
Philadelphia, October 2000
Call for Papers Adorno and the Modernist Avant-Garde a panel to be proposed for the "New Modernisms II" Conference October 12-15, 2000: The University of Pennsylvania Theodor Adorno's Aesthetic Theory begins (to the extent that the text we have represents his final wishes) by raising the question of the avant-garde: "The sea of the formerly inconceivable, on which around 1910 revolutionary art movements set out, did not bestow the promised happiness of adventure. Instead, the process that was unleashed consumed the categories in the name of that for which it was undertaken. More was constantly pulled into the vortex of the newly taboo; everywhere artists rejoiced less over the newly won realm of freedom than that they immediately sought once again after ostensible yet scarcely adequate order" (1). For Adorno, the artists who gathered in avant-garde movements renounced their claim to art and therefore their art doesn't risk being the broken promise of happiness; avant-garde art merely becomes a fetish of the ever-new. Thus, Adorno focuses his attention on a Modernist axis of (something like) Kafka-Schoenberg-Beckett; but what would occur if we shifted this axis toward (something like) Breton-Cage-Duchamp? While Adorno has spoken elsewhere about his deep troubles with surrealism, is there something that Adorno mis-reads about avant-garde maneuvers from the beginning? Can avant-garde art not also risk the autonomy that Adorno prizes? Can Adorno be brought to nuance a version of the avant-garde which would not fall into the commodity structures that Adorno convicts it of? I'm looking for proposals that would engage these questions and, at the same time, couch the analysis in avant-garde figures. Please send a 200-300 word proposal and short vita by May 5 to Erich.P.Hertz.email@example.com.