By David Jenemann
The German thinker and cultural critic Theodor W. Adorno was once one of many towering highbrow figures of the 20th century, and among 1938 and 1953 he lived in exile within the usa. within the first in-depth account of this era of Adorno’s existence, David Jenemann examines Adorno’s war of words with the burgeoning American “culture industry” and casts new mild on Adorno’s writings concerning the mass media. opposite to the commonly held belief—even between his defenders—that Adorno used to be disconnected from the United States and disdained its tradition, Jenemann unearths that Adorno was once an energetic and engaged player in cultural and highbrow existence in the course of those years.
From the time he first arrived in manhattan in 1938 to paintings for the Princeton Radio examine undertaking, exploring the influence of radio on American society and the maturing advertising and marketing thoughts of the nationwide radio networks, Adorno used to be devoted to realizing the technological and social impression of renowned artwork within the usa. Adorno carried those pursuits with him to Hollywood, the place he and Max Horkheimer tried to make a movie for his or her reports in Prejudice undertaking and the place he befriended Thomas Mann and helped him craft his recognized novel health practitioner Faustus. Shuttling among insightful readings of Adorno’s theories and a wealthy physique of archival materials—including unpublished writings and FBI files—Jenemann paints a portrait of Adorno’s years in ny and l. a. and tells the cultural background of an the USA coming to grips with its swiftly evolving mass culture.
“For these vulnerable to brush off Adorno’s tackle the US because the uncomprehending condescension of a mandarin elitist, David Jenemann’s superb new booklet will come as a impolite awakening. Exploiting a wealth of latest assets, he persuasively exhibits the intensity of Adorno’s engagement with the tradition and the complexity of his response to it.” —Martin Jay, Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of heritage, college of California, Berkeley
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Extra resources for Adorno in America
Adorno’s contributions to Mann’s Doctor Faustus and his insistence on the novel’s “hope beyond hopelessness” illustrate the ways the subject might survive its own death and how the novel, surpassed by newer forms of mass media, might hold the best promise for the future of the subject. After considering a number of texts that deal, at one level or another, with the problem of literacy in the late 1940s and the 1950s, texts ranging from David Riesman’s classic The Lonely Crowd to Chrylser-Plymouth’s less-than-classic ad campaign featuring the ridiculously heroic cartoon character Chuck Carson, I conclude the chapter with a discussion of the ways Adorno consigned himself to Mann’s text, thereby willing himself to a posterity he would never witness.
Whatever Adorno’s demeanor, whether ivory-tower aesthete or misunderstood foreigner, his work on PRRP was roundly criticized by his colleagues, and ultimately, when funding to extend Adorno’s appointment was withdrawn by the Rockefeller Foundation, he was let go. His output— consisting of the long “Memorandum” (161 pages); a study of an NBC musical-education program, “Analytical Study of NBC’s Music Appreciation Hour”; and the massive book Current of Music—went unpublished. The projected PRRP book on music in radio was reduced to one essay printed in Radio Research, 1941 (“The Radio Symphony”), and only two other articles, “A Social Critique of Radio Music” (published in Kenyon Review) and “On Popular Music” (written with George Simpson), the essay that immediately follows Lazarsfeld’s own in volume 9 of Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, saw print while Adorno was in the United States.
9 Lazarsfeld’s example is disturbing on a number of levels, not least of which being the calculating misogyny inherent in ranking women based on beauty (with size and education factored as variables). For Adorno, it would be no doubt equally troubling to see the aesthetic sense schematized in such a way, and to his mind, this willingness of the social sciences to “liquidate”10 its subjects, deriving “Wxed” elements to graph, was tantamount to a type of subject-murder. If the truth of subjects—what makes us alive and capable of having opinions—is mutability, the oscillation between subjective desires and objective societal conditions, each constantly in Xux, then the lifeless “facts” of empirical social science research are inevitably false.
Adorno in America by David Jenemann