Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 15, Issue 1, Fall 2010

Jeffrey Bernstein
Pages 139-163

From Tragedy to Iconoclasm
The Changing Status of Hölderlin in Adorno’s Conception of History

This paper explores the transformation which Adorno’s conception of history undergoes from his texts of the 1930s to those of the 1960s. This transformation involves a change in the role played by Hölderlin’s figure of transience. In the texts of the ’30s, Hölderlinian transience (in its Benjaminian interpretation) amounts to a moment of negative content within Adorno’s conception of history. In the texts of the ’60s, such transience becomes the very form of Adornian philosophical history. As such, his thinking of history changes from a tragic conception (emphasizing a “negative absolute”) to an iconoclastic one (emphasizing “absolute negativity”).