Prismatic Thought


Prismatic Thought

Theodor W. Adorno

Peter Uwe Hohendahl

287 pages


April 1997


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

A leading figure in the Frankfurt School of philosophers from the 1930s through the time of his death in 1969, Adorno was the author of influential philosophical and sociological works on issues ranging from aesthetics, music history, and mass culture to politics, modern technology, and the Western philosophical tradition.
Prismatic Thought is a brilliant tour of Adorno’s work, with special emphasis on his aesthetic writings. Peter Uwe Hohendahl opens with a pair of chapters that considers Adorno’s years of exile in the United States during the Second World War and his return in the early 1950s to a West Germany harrowed by its recent Nazi past and responsibility for the Holocaust. He then examines Adorno’s writings on literature, language, poetry, philosophy, and mass culture in relation to modern history. Throughout the book, Hohendahl argues that Adorno’s work "ultimately resists the desire for systematic order, the search for a grand design that gives meaning to all the individual texts."
Prismatic Thought is distinguished by Hohendahl’s sensitivity to the historical and intellectual conditions of Adorno’s time and by his mastery of the myriad Adorno studies of the past twenty-five years. Equally important is his description of Adorno’s relevance to our own age. In the course of situating Adorno in his own era, Hohendahl introduces us to an Adorno who is also our contemporary.

Author Bio

Peter Uwe Hohendahl is Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. His books include Building a National Literature: The Case of Germany, 1830–1870 and The Institution of Criticism. He is editor of A History of German Literary Criticism, 1730–1980 (Nebraska 1988).


"A richly nuanced reading of some of the crucial ambiguities, multiplicities and internal developments in Adorno’s work."—Shierry Weber Nicholsen, translator of Adorno’s Prisms and Notes to Literature


1996 Outstanding Academic Book, sponsored by Choice Magazine, selection

Also of Interest