The Saving Line: Benjamin, Adorno, and the Caesuras of Hope

Evanston, IL, USA: Northwestern University Press (2020)
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In attempting to determine why the Enlightenment project had derailed and how this failure might be remedied, Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno both turned to canonical literary narratives. The resultant works, Benjamin’s major essay on Goethe’s Elective Affinities and Adorno’s meditation on the Odyssey in Dialectic of Enlightenment, are centrally concerned with the very act of narration. The Saving Line reconstructs a hitherto unnoticed, wide-ranging dialogue between these foundational texts of the Frankfurt School. At the heart of Dornbach’s argument is a critical model that Benjamin built around the concept of caesura, which Adorno subsequently reworked. Countering an obscurantism that would become complicit in the rise of fascism, the two theorists aligned moments of arrest in narratives mired in unreason. The Saving Line throws fresh light on the intellectual exchange and disagreements between Benjamin and Adorno, the problematic conjunction of secular reason and negative theology in their thinking, and the philosophical significance of literary narration. (See PDF file below for a more detailed précis)

Author's Profile

Marton Dornbach
Institute of Philosophy, Research Centre for The Humanities /Budapest/


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