Indiana University Bloomington

Fall 2017: Schedule of the Reading Group

Conveners: Michel Chaouli (Germanic Studies) and Jeffrey Saletnik (Art History)

Unless noted otherwise, the reading group meets Fridays, 2 - 3:30 pm, at the College Arts & Humanities Institute, 1211 E. Atwater Avenue. Page numbers refer to the Minnesota edition; the pagination of the Bloomsbury edition is given in paranthesis.


Sept. 1: “Draft Introduction”

Sept. 8: “Situation”

Sept. 15: “Art, Society, Aesthetics”

Sept. 22: “On the Categories of the Ugly, the Beautiful, and Technique”

Sept. 29: “Natural Beauty”

Oct. 6: “Art Beauty: Apparition, Spiritualization, Intuitability”

Oct. 13: “Semblance and Expression”

Oct. 20: “Enigmaticalness, Truth Content, Metaphysics”

Oct. 27: “Coherence and Meaning”

Nov. 3: “Meaning,” 152-163 (208-221) and “Toward a Theory of the Artwork,” 175-182 (241-250)

Nov. 10: “Toward a Theory of the Artwork,” 182-199 (250-271); later in the day: symposium

Nov. 17: “Society,” 225-236 (307-321)

Dec. 1: “Society,” 236-248 (321-337)

Dec. 8: “Society,” 248-261 (337-352)

Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory


During the fall semester, the Center's reading group devotes itself to an intensive study of Theodor W. Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, published in 1970, a year after the philosopher’s death. This is an unusually ambitious book. Adorno aims for a mode of reflection capable of keeping pace with the most sophisticated thinking about art that the Western tradition has to offer. He is alive to Marxist arguments about the relationship of art and society, yet he remains steadfastly—in the eyes of some readers, maddeningly—committed to a high-altitude conception of High Art. His writing pushes to an extreme the tension between two life-long allegiances: to rigorous conceptual thinking, on the one hand, and, on the other, to the equally rigorous experience of art, mostly in music and literature. Virtually every sentence testifies to the push and pull between philosopher and critic.

This is a book that rewards careful study. It has much to teach. Even those unsympathetic to its way of thinking admit to learning from it. It has therefore remained a touchstone of aesthetic thinking for the past half century. We too hope to learn from it in the weekly discussions of the Center’s reading group. Our work will culminate in a symposium, planned for Nov. 10 and 11, that gathers scholars who have found the Aesthetic Theory seminal for their own thinking.

Like all Center activities, the reading group too is open to the public.


The Reading Group constitutes the intellectual heart of the Center and predates the Center by many years. Here are some of the major texts the group has studied:

Arendt, The Human Condition
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics.
Badiou, Being and Event.
Bergson, Matter and Memory.
Blumenberg,The Legitimacy of the Modern Age.
Cavell, The Claims of Reason.
Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe.
Deleuze, Cinema I; Difference and Repetition.
Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject.
Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams.
Gadamer, Truth and Method.
Heidegger, Being and Time.
Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences.
Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception; The Visible and the Invisible.
Plato, The Laws.
Rancière, The Names of History.
Zizek, The Puppet and the Dwarf.