Aesthetics of Negativity: Blanchot, Adorno, and Autonomy

By William S. Allen | Go to book overview

8
Echo Location
Beckett’s Comment c’est

Adorno’s long essay on Fin de partie appeared in 1961 and is his only extended discussion of Beckett’s works. It is also one of his most lucid examinations of the dialectic of the material and the historical that revisits many of the themes from his earlier reading of Benjamin’s Trauerspiel study, since Fin de partie, in its analysis of the destruction of nature and the loss of worldly authority, reposes many of the concerns of the baroque mourningplay in a modern, technological context. But in this chapter I will turn to Beckett’s Comment c’est instead, partly because it is a prose text rather than a drama, but also because it appears to have had a greater influence on Adorno’s thought (even though this was not developed at any length) as its formal experimentation resonated with his own ideas on the nature of the contemporary artwork. Evidence for this influence can be found in the scattered references to Comment c’est that he makes in Ästhetische Theorie and other late texts [e.g., AT: 36/19, 331/223]. But what is interesting about these references is that Adorno seems unable to bring his thoughts to any greater degree of development and instead returns to this novel as a topos that can only be discussed through its name. Although Adorno’s thoughts on this topic were never as extensive as Benjamin’s own fascination for names, he was intrigued by the density and status of the titles taken on by artworks, which become more than just markers but are profoundly aporetic forms of their own. For the title expresses something above and beyond its relation to the work that it marks, something closer to the quality

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