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Title: Antiquity in Dark Times: Classical Reception in the Thought of Theodor Adorno and Erich Auerbach
Authors: Umachandran, Mathura Yalini
Advisors: Billings, Joshua H
Contributors: Classics Department
Keywords: Critical
Subjects: Classical literature
German literature
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Erich Auerbach (1903-1957) and Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) were two of the many German Jewish intellectuals who left National Socialist Germany in the 1930s. Recent scholarship within Classics has paid attention to the critical readings of Homer’s Odyssey that both men produced in exile, that is, the first chapter of Auerbach’s Mimesis, the Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1946) and the first excursus of Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) written by Adorno in collaboration with Max Horkheimer. This dissertation investigates, through the notion of ‘exile’, how the critical reception of antiquity operated in the wider thought of Adorno and Auerbach. I seek to show how Auerbach and Adorno develop powerful critical positions in articulating their alienation from the particular forms of philhellenism that had anchored German philology and philosophy. This dissertation falls into two halves reflecting the manner of Adorno and Auerbach’s engagements with classical antiquity. The first half examines Auerbach and Adorno’s direct receptions, that is, their readings of Homer. Chapter One investigates how Auerbach adduces a Judeo-Christian notion of the sublime and thus challenges the critieria by which Homer was held up as an aesthetic ideal. Through Adorno’s notion of ‘epic naïveté’, Chapter Two shows how the Frankfurt thinker reads the Odyssey as an aesthetic object and therefore as a potential resource of liberation, as well as the Grundtext for the barbarism of Western civilization. The second half of this dissertation examines Adorno and Auerbach’s responses to the philhellenic organisation of scholarly methods. Chapter Three argues that Auerbach reconfigures the notion of Weltliteratur, replacing Goethe’s original formulation of the Greeks as the paradigm for this concept. Chapter Four examines the philosophical conseuqences of Adorno’s choice of ps. Aristotle’s Magna Moralia for the title of his 1951 collection of aphorisms Minima Moralia. I show how Adorno frames an ethic of homelessness, as a response to the violence of modernity, through recourse to an image of damaged Hellenism. This dissertation argues that Adorno and Auerbach provide a dialectical model of classical reception that is deeply sensitive to the political conditions in which the very idea of antiquity is formulated.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Classics

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