Of Mice and Men: Adorno on Art and the Suffering of Animals

Estetika 48 (2):139-156 (2011)
Theodor W. Adorno’s criticism of human beings’ domination of nature is a familiar topic to Adorno scholars. Its connection to the central relationship between art and nature in his aesthetics has, however, been less analysed. In the following paper, I claim that Adorno’s discussion of art’s truth content (Wahrheitsgehalt) is to be understood as art’s ability to give voice to nature (both human and non-human) since it has been subjugated by the growth of civilization. I focus on repressed non-human nature and examine Adorno’s interpretation of Eduard Mörike’s poem ‘Mausfallen-Sprüchlein’ (Mousetrap rhyme). By giving voice to the repressed animal, Mörike’s poem manages to point towards the possibility of a changed relationship between mice and men, between nature and humanity, which is necessary in order to achieve reconciliation amongst humans as well
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