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The wor(l)d of the animal. Adorno on art's expression of suffering

Author(s): Camilla Flodin

Journal: Journal of Aesthetics & Culture
ISSN 2000-4214

Volume: 3;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: domination of nature | natural beauty | The Odyssey | non-human animals | Mahler

Although Adorno takes modern, autonomous art as the starting point for his aesthetics, this does not mean that his idea of art's truth content is restricted to the artworks of modernity. In the article, I wish to show that Adorno's discussion of art's truth content is intimately connected with its capacity to express the suffering that nature has undergone and still undergoes in the name of enlightenment. I focus on art's expression of the suffering of non-human nature, and particularly non-human animals. I examine the interpretation Adorno makes in Dialectic of Enlightenment of an episode from The Odyssey, to show that even an artwork before the modern conception of art can be said to have truth content. Few commentators have considered this, and those who have, have not recognized Adorno's conviction that what is significant in authentic artworks is their ability to give voice not only to repressed human nature but also to repressed non-human nature. Giving voice to suffering nature and animals is something that unites The Odyssey with subsequent artworks, such as Mahler's Third Symphony.Camilla Flodin has a PhD in Aesthetics from Uppsala University (2009). Her dissertation examines Theodor W. Adorno's ideas on the relationship between art, nature and truth. In autumn 2010, she was Visiting Scholar at the Department of Philosophy, Columbia University. She currently teaches Aesthetics at the Department of Philosophy, Uppsala University. She has published in Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics and several Swedish cultural journals (such as Glänta and Hjärnstorm).
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