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Title: Speaking politically, not politics : an Adornian study of 'apolitical' twentieth-century fiction
Author: Philippou, Eleni
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 9980
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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My thesis is concerned with Theodor Adorno (1903-1969), the Frankfurt School theorist, and the implications of his philosophy for literary studies. I show that Adorno's thought may offer a valid contribution to the analysis of literary texts, even texts with which he is not historically associated. More specifically, I link Adorno with texts that emerge out of situations of political extremity but are not necessarily understood as "political" protest literature. Drawing on a variety of Adorno's texts, I assert that key concepts within Adorno's thought - truth content, immanence, the non-identical - allow us a way of understanding literary texts that appear apolitical, but in fact are speaking to the social and material relations of their specific (political) context. Adorno's exposition on the interface between the artwork and history usefully engages authors that problematise or dismantle our traditional conception of what constitutes the "political" - overt manifest content that aligns itself with a particular ideological position. I have chosen three twentieth-century authors (J.M. Coetzee; Margarita Karapanou; Michael Ondaatje) whose literature bear the burden of political extremity (respectively, South African apartheid, the 1970s Greek military junta, and the Sri Lankan civil war), and is at loggerheads with the literature of political commitment emerging from each of those situations. Each of these authors asserts his or her aesthetic autonomy over prescriptive understandings of literature as a vehicle actively espousing a particular nationalist, political, ideological or even aesthetically formalist position. The work of these authors, I argue, embodies an alternative Adornian version of engaged literature. In short, my thesis operates as a two way conversation asking: "What can Adorno's concepts give to certain literary texts?", and reciprocally, "What can those texts give to our traditional understanding of Adorno and his applicability?" This thesis is an act of rethinking the literary in Adornian terms, and rethinking Adorno through the literary.
Supervisor: Mukherjee, Ankhi Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature--Philosophy ; Politics and literature ; English literature ; Postcolonialism in literature