“Risking thought through Art. Transatlantic Practices of experimental prose writing in modernism.” University of Augsburg, American Studies Research Group. June 2, 2016.
Speaking from exile, Theodor W. Adorno reverted to a method of critical theory which counters the totalizing logic of fascism. It is motivated by the “Fühlung mit den Gegenständen” (1951), the intuition of abstract concepts through a tactile sense of material objects, of perceptions and emotional states. This relation between the senses and thinking was the starting point for my presentation at the American Studies Research Group in Augsburg.
How does literature reflect the experience of knowing and coming to know?
Instead of considering how poetic texts respond to scientific findings, I’ve become increasingly interested in how the core elements of literary textuality – metaphor, observation, perspective– can and are being used in order to develop new concepts with which to navigate the world. Crisis calls for new forms of expression, and a wide variety of writers (who work in disciplines such as philosophy, social sciences) respond to ideologies of oppression and violence with texts that are intended as contributions to critical and analytical thought, but are written in a strikingly literary style. This talk proposed that artistic practice can engender new forms of knowledge and concepts, beyond the established knowledge cultures of philosophy, the social sciences, or history.
I understand this as a response to recent calls that philosophical genres have not received the critical attention they deserve, as Jonathan Lavery points out in a 2007 special issue of Poetics Today dedicated to the question of philosophical genre; Robyn Ferrell (2002) similarly noted a “paradoxical barrier” in developing a literary perspective on philosophy. In working against the alleged dichotomy of content and form, I aim to contribute to a more complex understanding of a textuality of thought which mobilizes percepts, affects and metaphor as trajectories of cognition.