Adorno's Poetics of Form

By Josh Robinson

Subjects: Continental Philosophy, Aesthetics, Philosophy Of Literature, Philosophy, Literary Theory
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Hardcover : 9781438469836, 288 pages, June 2018
Paperback : 9781438469843, 288 pages, January 2019

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Table of contents

Abbreviations of Works by Adorno



1. Form and Content

Adorno and Heidegger: The Form of the Thing
Parataxis and Linguistic Form
Form as Sedimented Content
Parataxis in Adorno’s reading of ‘Der Einzige’
Consequences for Form and Content
2. Form and Expression
The Mediation of Form and Expression
Literary and Musical Expressionism
Expressionism and Surrealism
Consequences for the Theory of Form
3. Form and Genre
The Fraying of Borders
The Genesis of the Forms
Universal and Particular
Nominalism and its Discontents
Bourgeois Art and the Culture Industry
The Novel as Form
Theory of the Essay
4. Form and Material
Material and Content
Technique and the Mastery of Material
Language and Poetry
The Literary Manifestation of Form and Material
Consequences for the Theory of Form
5. Artistic Form and the Commodity Form
Social and Abstract Labor
Abstraction and Exchange
Mediation and Form
Purposiveness, Communication, Language
Poetry and Reconciliation
Art Beauty and Natural Beauty
Priority of the Object
Engaging Form
Beyond the New Formalism

Works Cited

A critical study of the concept of form in Adorno’s writings on art and literature.


Adorno's Poetics of Form is the first book-length examination of the elusive deployment of the concept of form in Adorno's writings on art and literature, and the first monograph to offer a comprehensive account of the relation of these writings to his broader philosophical project. It examines form within the constellation of concepts that exist around it, considering how it appears when seen in conjunction with and in opposition to content, expression, genre, and material. Illuminated from these angles, form is revealed as the site of a complex web of dynamic conceptual interactions. The book thus offers a resolution to a problem in Adorno's work that has remained unsolved for several decades, and in doing so sets out the consequences of Adorno's poetics for literary and critical theory today.

Josh Robinson is Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom.


"Adorno's Poetics of Form is at once a kind of casebook (Robinson has read a lot of Adorno so you don't have to) and a critical work (Robinson has drawn out implicit Adornoian concerns and drawn together a constellation of formal concerns). Taken together, this simply means that Adorno's Poetics of Form invites (and deserves) the same kind of attention it gives to its collection of texts." — Mediations

"In Adorno's Poetics of Form, Josh Robinson carries out a necessary and fruitful investigation into the way we think about art, and the potential embedded in particular works … Robinson has produced a highly readable and accomplished contribution to the scholarship on Theodor Adorno's aesthetic project as it pertains to the question of form, and a thought-provoking reformation of the Marxist theory of art." — Phenomenological Reviews