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Aesthetic Theory (Theory and History of Literature) [Paperback]

by Theodor W. Adorno, Robert Hullot-Kentor
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 12, 1998 0816618003 978-0816618002 1
Theodor Adorno (1903-69) was undoubtedly the foremost thinker of the Frankfurt School, the influential group of German thinkers that fled to the US in the 1930s, including such thinkers as Herbert Marcuse and Max Horkheimer. His work has proved enormously influential in sociology, philosophy and cultural theory. Aesthetic Theory is Adorno's posthumous magnum opus and the culmination of a lifetime's investigation. Analysing the sublime, the ugly and the beautiful, Adorno shows how such concepts frame and distil human experience and that it is human experience that ultimately underlies aesthetics. In Adorno's formulation ‘art is the sedimented history of human misery'. Edited by Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedeman Translated by Robert Hullot-Kentor.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Aesthetic Theory (Theory and  History of Literature) + Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (Radical Thinkers) + Aesthetics and Politics (Radical Thinkers)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While the imitators of great literary theorists may have produced the least lucid, most jargon-laden and most parodied literary and cultural criticism since the 18th century, editors Wlad Godzich and Jochen Schulte-Sasse of the University of Minnesota's Theory and History of Literature series cannot be blamed for such excesses. Their 88-volume series, which contains some of the most cogent though still challenging criticism of the last 15 years, terminates with a volume from the controversial late Yale deconstructionist Paul de Man (Aesthetic Ideology) and a retranslated edition of mid-century Frankfurt School leader Theodore Adorno's Aesthetic Theory. This dignified leave-taking preempts the empty millennial speculation currently dominating postmodern studies, and leaves in its wake a generation of scholars reared on the series. (De Man: $49.95, 224p ISBN 0-8166-2203-5, $19.95 paper -2204-3; Adorno: $39.95, 448p ISBN 0-8166-1799-6, cloth only)
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“….the fact that they [Continuum] are putting low price tags on works once published in expensive academic editions is something of which we can all be glad..” –Modern Painters, 2/05 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Theory and History of Literature (Book 88)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (August 12, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816618003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816618002
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 3.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Antidote to Mass Culture of shallowness October 25, 2010
This is an uncompromising reminder that art is not decoration, or popular culture, it is far most profound, and that our narrow perspective on the world structured by our ecstatic media frenzied mass culture is a false and brief illusion.
Adorno reaches accross centuries to find the importance of art in human endeavor and development, how art is part of articulating these and essential to historical progress.
I dont want to get into reviewing his text, I am not capable critiquing it, and other reviews have placed it in the historical/intellectual context. I dont know of any serious thinker in the last century that invested so much thought into the aesthethic philosophy of modernity, thus I find the ultimate philosophical text on modern art. For me Adorno's position hinges on his critique of catharsis as an unacheivable condition of modernity.
It is a refreshing and motivating book to withstand and overcome all the misinformation that is thrown at us constantly and irresposibly. His examples are mostly from music so it is much more abstract than the visual arts examples of most art theory. A must for anyone that really cares about art. I dare you to read this and go to some trendy galleries afterwards. I say this because it will make you see right trhough all the pretense, and long for the real, the universal, the historically significant workamd rediscover it.
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79 of 102 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Theodor Adorno's "Aesthetic Theory" is in one respect about the end of art;it was written partially in response to his friend Walter Benjamin. Benjamin's views on the ends of art and the pontentialities, the encrusted meanings waiting to me unleashed in mass produced art. Benjamin had thought there was an emancipatory moment in art in now the age of mechanical production. Since Adorno had outlived Benjamin until 1969, Adorno's task was to furnish us with the conception of art now as a pennyless child gazing into the candystore, an art in exile, an art where the disintegration of cultural pillars have long eroded away. Schoenberg's varigated orchestral scores was the ultimate rebellion in a private world, the subject at last trying to find truth and resemblance within the aesthetic crumbs leftover from the 19th century.
Adorno's " Aesthetic Theory" is not only a treatise, a counterflow, a tone-poem of fragments, symphonic forms exploded into motives and cells of thought, it is a bridge between all arts,although the relativily new form of film is neglected. Adorno had thought this fragmentary style of writing as satisfying with the collapse of system-building within philosophic thought.The aesthetic strategy of Adorno's thought then is one which interfaces, interrelates, crosses itself in its various readings of art. And the reader expects this complexity to be apparent. Robert Hullot-Kentor's translation is indeed something which encourages this reading of Adorno. He allows us to enter Adorno's thought in its full complexity. So, graphically he allows the undivision of paragraphs to remain as Adorno had originally composed in draft form. Adorno's thought continually overflows,continually creates layers, multilayers of references.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pyramidal corpus of smart ideas! January 13, 2009
"The darkening of the world makes rational the irrational in art: it's an irrationality radically obscured". "The art doesn't imitate neither the nature nor to a concrete natural beauty, but the natural beauty by itself." "The efforts of the art by saving, in the remaining, all the transient, flowing and temporal, defending it from the stuffing though art is familiarized with it, bear a tension between the objectifying technique and the mimetic essence of the works."

"Aesthetical theory" is a huge compendium of smart ideas, a whole corpus of clever and revealing concepts about the role of the art. His architectural intelligence and supreme erudition literally is an engaging tour de force, an impressive gallery of sharp reflections that will motivate you, dear reader.

Since I acquired it, this book has become one of my cult texts, whose relevant importance remains beyond any other superlative you want to label it.
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21 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definite book of modernist aesthetics April 30, 2005
By Neckar
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Adorno is not famous for his writing style. His prose is dense, and sometimes impenetrable for the English reader. Yet, I think Adorno's Aesthetic Theory is one of the greatest books of XX century philosophy along with Heidegger's "Being and Time", and Wittgenstein's Tractatus. I think there are three levels of reflection in this book. The first is that AT is a sociology of art. Adorno traces the social and economic conditions of how modern art becomes to being. Industrialization and modernization have a great impact on aesthetics because perception and reality are fundamentally altered. Adorno makes the case that the destruction of nature by industry propels modern art to find its reality elsewhere by becoming abstract. Art does not want to imitate nature since nature is already destroyed. It escapes to the realm of idea(l)s in order to critique the current state of being. Aesthetics is the second level of reflection. Aesthetics in modernism becomes an instrument of social critique. Before, in the time of Kant and the idealists, aesthetic was the study of beauty and artistic genius. Now, according to Adorno, it becomes the study of social disintegration in which the artist is just the "unfortunate" medium to express it. Yet, Adorno is not a complete pessimist. He sees in aesthetic reflection a tool for utopian transformation. This transformation constitutes the third level of reading AT -the philosophical or utopian. Modern art, because it critiques this world for the sake of a better one, is also philosophy. Since philosophy was the discipline that established how the real and ideal are separated, modern art also shows this gap, and treats beauty as a poor substitute for happiness. Beauty, once idealized by the elite, becomes a sign of art's powerlessness to transform the world. Read more ›
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