Tag Archives: Adorno

Very Similar Unique Ideas

I will be honest and say that most of this reading went completely over my head. Maybe I was just tired and therefore incapable of comprehending what it was that I was reading, or maybe I could be wide awake and still not understand what was going on. In any case, I think that at one point Adorno was saying that the universality of poetry comes from writing about something that has not already been written.

This relates to Shelley in that Shelley believed the very inception of poetry in one’s mind was where the real poetry was. So Adorno (from my understanding) believes that poetry’s universality comes from something written for the first time, so it therefore applies to everyone since there is nothing out there like that particular poem yet; and Shelley believes poetry is the initial original thought, and once it’s written it is less poetic. They both seem to think that as long as the poem is truly original and unique, then it is true poetry. (But I could be totally wrong.)

Since both their ideas seem so similar to each other…would their ideas count as poetry? Or would only whoever wrote their idea of poetry down first be considered the poet?


Adorno, Theodor W. “On Lyric Poetry and Society.” Notes to Literature. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. 46. Print.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “A Defence of Poetry” The Critical Tradition. Ed. David Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. 358. Print.

Adorno, Shelley, and Universality

Both Adorno and Shelley play with the concept of there being a universality in poetry where a poet is able to represent these sort of opposing forces without explicitly defending one force or the other. However in Adorno’s case, he argues that it is possible for lyric poetry to be more compelling for one side even when its inverse is being spoken for or supported. He uses examples from Baudelaire’s works, such as a poem about a servant woman, to show how works of literature can speak more profoundly or truer to its unintended audience than to the actual subject of the work. To reiterate this, Adorno writes that “when individual expression. . . seems shaken to its very core in the crisis of the individual, the collective undercurrent in the lyric surfaces in the most diverse places” (46). While it may appear that a poet is emphasizing one particular part of life, he is actually  inviting the reader to absorb his words more deeply to see that he is trying to communicate a larger social statement. It isn’t what’s in the lyric poems, it’s what has been purposefully left out. In Shelley’s explanation, “[poet’s] exertions are of the highest value so long as they confine their administration of the concerns of the inferior powers of our nature within the limits due to the superior ones” (358). Due to the restrictions of the “superior” forces at work, a great poet structures his writing so that the “inferior concerns” are implicitly addressed. Although it may not be obviously stated or although it may seem as though he is appealing only to the superior, the poet has the unique ability to subscribe to both.




Adorno, Theodor W. “On Lyric Poetry and Society.” Notes to Literature. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. 46. Print.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “A Defence of Poetry” The Critical Tradition. Ed. David Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. 358. Print.

Adorno and Wilde

“For that reason, however, reflection on the work of art is justified in inquiring, and obligated to inquire concretely into its social content and not content itself with a vague feeling of something universal and inclusive”… “In order to be susceptible of aesthetic contemplation, works of art must always be thought through as well, and once thought has been called into play by the poem it does not let itself be stopped at the poem’s behest,” (Adorno 38).

This “vague feeling of something universal and inclusive” is what interests me in Adorno’s passage. Instead of simply reflecting on the content with the notion that it has social prerequisites, we should take into consideration what it means to be human by “hear[ing ] the voice of humankind”. So we are obligated to inquire, as Adorno says, and think deeply since social content is more than just being universal and inclusive at the same time. In addition, he says thinking about literature’s concepts cannot be extinguished. That if the work is doing its job correctly, then it calls on you to think in other moments when you’re not looking at the work.

This point, that literature is an art form with a powerful social construct which begs not to be thought about during one’s reading or even after, but into daily life reminded me of the jabs Wilde had Vivian take about Nature in his essay.

“Nothing is more evident than that Nature hates Mind. Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately, in England at any rate, thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as people is entirely due to our national stupidity” (Wilde 479)

But what makes me connect these two passages is, what if the Nature Wilde is writing about is human nature and not just the physical world? That the human mind (Mind) is constantly debating human nature (Nature) and it is this that makes up every work of literature, and makes one think thoroughly and daily about works of art. I feel as if both authors argue this point, and both feel that it is highly overlooked when reading an important text.

Adorno, Theadore W. “On Lyric Poetry and Society.” Notes to Literature. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. 38. Print.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying: An Observation.” The Critical Tradition. Ed. David Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. 479. Print.

Adorno & Brooks

Adorno discusses the individualism of poetry, especially lyric poetry and how its effect is changed with its context to the reader. He says, “The lyric work hopes to attain universality through unrestrained individuation” (38). Adorno’s stance on the individual reading a poem is what makes it universal. This relates perfectly back to Brooks who discusses the truth of a work not by the reader’s response, but by its intent. (I can’t find the quote, I wanted)  He says that there is an ideal reader whose reading matters to a poem, but the individuals’ experiences or emotional responses to work aren’t what effects it. Adorno although agrees that the universal element of a poem is necessary to its importance, he makes the point to say that the universality of a poem is  altered by a social aspect. Adorno says that the way society conceives a work can manifest its meaning and transcend it.