TO REVERSAL: AESTHETICS AND POETICS FROM KANT TO ADORNO, BLANCHOT, AND CELAN
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This thesis reads radical indeterminacy into the reflective judgements of Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgement through points of connection between Kant’s aesthetics and the philosophies and writing of Theodor Adorno and Maurice Blanchot. These re-situate the ‘ends’ of Kantian aesthetics in the historical situation of the 1960s and 1970s. In turn, this historicising of Kantian aesthetics reinterprets its original content. Such double reading – from Kant forwards, and back to Kant – is configured through what I call ‘reversal’: the indeterminacy of aesthetic reflection calls for a reverse ‘reading’ of itself which is not self-defeatingly determined by the aesthetic. Kant thus gives us the vocabulary for re-reading his aesthetics of reflection, and from this other indeterminacies of reflection, despite his attempt to organise and explain reflective relations through consistently with philosophical form through judgement. To read Kant outside his or any philosophy’s economy, the task demanded by Adorno’s theory and Blanchot’s writing, asks for poetic readers and writers such as their near-contemporary, Paul Celan. They understand Celan’s poetry as making legible how Kant’s aesthetic might be thought reflectively, thus showing that the indeterminacy Kant attributes to reflection can be aesthetically experienced without being effaced by the philosophical judgement implying that indeterminacy. This turn back, the turn of verse, forms the hinge between Adorno’s and Blanchot’s dialectical and political thinking, allowing the common sense, the un-institutionalised ‘we’ Kant thinks ratifies aesthetic judgement, to remain negative or ‘unavowable’. Aesthetics still structures the reading of poetry, but such poetry makes the indeterminate implications of Kantian aesthetics legible. ‘Disconnection’ becomes the organising principle for reflection and politics, implied by but now freed from aesthetic judgement, made visible by a poetry of ‘reversal’. We conclude by finding the development of these ideas in two major elegists of Celan, Geoffrey Hill and Jeremy Prynne.
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