n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - "Man muss die Dinge sich vor Augen halten..." : Goethe's and Adorno's aesthetic programmes as a critique of Modernity

Volume 32, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0258-2279
  • E-ISSN: 2219-8237



Early on in his acquaintance with Goethe, Schiller criticised Goethe's 'philosophy' as too subjective: 'It takes too much from the world of [the] senses, whereas I take from the soul.' Today, subjectivity is the opposite to the 'objective' world experienced via the senses - a view that can be traced back to the early Scotist thinking on subjective versus objective truth.

In the first part of this article, close textual analysis of Goethe's Farbenlehre ('On the theory of colour') and Wahlverwandtschaften ('Elective affinities'), demonstrates how Goethe aligns the cognition of truth with a subjective function of participatory observation; which he sees as truly empirical. These texts from very different genres execute the same aesthetic programme, in which the narrator withdraws to invite the reader to see for him-/herself. In the second part, Goethe's concept of participatory truth-finding is compared to Adorno's aesthetic theory - Adorno claims that only the non-identical appears momentarily in artwork. The comparison between Goethe's 'Aperçu' and Adorno's 'Apparition', Goethe's 'zarte Empirie' and Adorno's incommensurable insight of art, supports the argument that Adorno's dilemma in grappling with the absolute can be overcome by using Goethe's relativising stance. This approach interprets knowledge as a set of cultural-historical concepts, emphasising the pivotal position and relevance of literary studies.

Kort na hulle kennismaking het Schiller Goethe se 'filosofie' as te 'subjektief' afgemaak: 'Dit neem te veel uit die waarneembare wêreld, terwyl ek uit die siel neem.' Vandag beskou ons subjektiwiteit as die teenoorgestelde van die 'objektiewe' wêreld, wat ons sintuiglik waarneem - 'n beskouing wat teruggevoer kan word na vroeë Skotiese denke oor subjektiewe in teenstelling met objektiewe waarheid.
In die eerste gedeelte van die artikel word 'n gedetailleerde teksontleding van Goethe se 'Farbenlehre' asook sy 'Wahlverwandtschaften' gebruik om te demonstreer hoe Goethe die kognisie van die waarheid verbind met 'n subjektiewe funksie van deelnemende waarneming wat hy as waarlik empiries beskou. Hierdie tekste uit heeltemal verskillende genres gee uitvoering aan dieselfde estetiese program. In die program onttrek die verteller homself van die vertelling om die leser te nooi om sélf te kyk. In die tweede gedeelte word Goethe se konsep van deelnemende waarneming vergelyk met Adorno se estetiese teorie - Adorno meen dat die nie-identiese slegs kortstondig in kunswerke verskyn. Die vergelyking tussen Goethe se 'Aperçu' en Adorno se 'Apparition', Goethe se 'zarte Empirie' en Adorno se begrip van die onmeetbare insig deur die kunste, ondersteun die argument dat Adorno se dilemma met betrekking tot dit wat absoluut is deur Goethe se relativiserende standpunt oorbrug kan word. Hierdie benadering interpreteer kennis as 'n stel kultuur-historiese konsepte wat die sleutelposisie en relevansie van literêre studies beklemtoon.

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