The Spiritualization of Art in Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory

Surti Singh


In Aesthetic Theory, Adorno discusses the progressive spiritualization of art over the course of two centuries. By excluding natural beauty, art established itself as a realm of freedom created by the autonomous subject. Yet, similar to the process of rationalization that Adorno and Horkheimer describe in the Dialectic of Enlightenment, spiritualization also exposes the autonomy of art to the return of the repressed. In this paper, I establish a distinction in Adorno’s work between spiritualization in its traditional sense, which designates this cycle of repression and return, and spiritualization in its radical sense, as the process that turns art against its history of domination. Spiritualization in this latter sense is the basis for an encounter with the repressed that exhibits a non- dominating stance toward otherness. 

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