Exact Imagination, Late Work
On Adorno's Aesthetics
278 pp., 5 x 8 in,
- Published: September 4, 1997
- Published: July 26, 1999
In Exact Imagination, Late Work, Shierry Weber Nicholsen begins the process of appropriating Adorno through the centrality of the aesthetic dimension.
Until now, most English-language writing on Adorno has attempted to place him in various contexts and to differentiate him from other thinkers. Such work, while important, masks our failure to imaginatively appropriate Adorno's ideas. In Exact Imagination, Late Work, Shierry Weber Nicholsen begins the process of appropriation through the centrality of the aesthetic dimension.
Adorno uses the term "exact imagination" to describe nondiscursive rationality. Exact imagination, which is the opposite of creative imagination, marks the conjunction of knowledge, subjective experience, and aesthetic form. Unlike exact imagination, "late work" is characterized by the disjunction of subjectivity and objectivity.
Exact imagination and late work mark the bounds of Nicholsen's exploration. The five interlocked essays, based on material from Adorno's "aesthetic writings," take up such issues as subjective aesthetic experience, the historicity of artworks and our experience of them, Adorno's conception of language, the nature of configurational or constellational form in Adorno's work, and the relation between the artwork, aesthetic experience, and philosophy. A subtext is the unraveling of Adorno's use of the ideas of his colleague Walter Benjamin. Nicholsen's essays themselves can be perceived as a constellation of their own around the central issue of the inseparability of form in its aesthetic dimension and nondiscursive rationality.
Nicholsen's Exact Imagination, Late Work is the distilled, reflectedproduct of countless hours alongside, and deeply within, Adorno'slanguages. Her brilliant achievement here is to have demonstrated theemphatic intimacy between Adorno's aesthetics and his compositions.
Tom Huhn, College of Letters and Philosophy Department, Wesleyan University