Comparison between Benjamin and Adorno
*For this first essay, please select a text of literary fiction (or an excerpt from a literary text), of about 10-20 lines (poetry in verse or in prose-poem form; or, prose fiction: a short story or excerpt from a short story; or an excerpt from a novella; or an excerpt from a novel; or an excerpt from a play/theatrical work).
Your essay should bring together the literary text/excerpt you’ve selected with some key ideas that you’ve taken and developed from (A) Theodor W. Adorno’s The Essay as Form (B) Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”
So, to summarize so far:
–The THESIS or ARGUMENT of your paper should combine a claim or contention that you’re developing about (1) what we can learn from–what you see as the value of–considering together the moments or ideas from Adorno and Benjamin that you’ve selected and put into dialogue with one another; and that you THEN put into conjunction with (2) your contention about what’s going on in the literary work (or the excerpt from a literary work) that you’ve seleted.
To put this a bit differntly:
–The first, or “critical/theoretical/aesthetic/philosophical” portion of your thesis or argument , will be what you claim is the “yield”–the value, or boon, or benefit–for interpretation or engagement with literary works that can result from our grasping of the two “critical theory or philosophy” texts together.
–The second, or “literary” portion of your thesis involves putting the first, critical-theoretical “yield,” together with what you THEN claim that the literary work (or apassage from it) is itself doing, in terms of its form or formal elements constructing the work’s meaning.
So: the thesis or theory or argument of your essay should be about what we “see,” “hear,” “feel,” “get,” or just can know from the following
–first, a combination of ideas from the two critical/theoretical texts with one another;
–and THEN, THAT FIRST RESULT or “yield” further combined with what you claim is going on in the literary text (or in the excerpt from a literary text) that you’ve selected.
***Your thesis/argument is in effect asking:
How does the “yield” or “take-away” that you’ve articulated beween the ideas from the two critical-theoretical-philosophical texts help us experience/judge the literary artwork you’ve selected; and, at the same time, how does the literary work, for its part, help us regard, judge, or evaluate the value of, but perhaps also the limits of, the theory?
In short, your thesis emerges from the putting–into mutual dialogue, and mutual judgment-process— first, the two theoretical texts with one another, and then, second, putting that initial critical-theoretical “yield” into relation with the literary work.
Your thesis/argument is thus articulating (and your essay as a whole will develop and prove) how:
(1) the theory/philosophy/criticism, and
(2) the literary work
(3) somewhow illuminate, judge,and/or test one another, in ways that we learn from.
— Remember that you essay’s thesis should be an argument, rather than a summary or summation or re-statement of something that, however intelligent, is still kind of self-evident. In literary criticism, a thesis/argument tends most often, and most importantly, to be about the relationship of THE HOW (the literary work’s formal dynamics) to THE WHAT (the literary work’s content/meaning).
In other words, a good thesis usually finds a way to argue that certain forms, genres, and/or formal techniques (sonnet, sestina, free verse, prose-poem, short story, novella, novel, comedy, farce, tragedy, etc., or some echoes of/alterations in those forms or genres; and also, more micro-aspects of form or formal technique, e.g., : tone, image-use or image-development, metaphor, paradox, contradiction,difficulty, pacing, rhythm, breath, pauses, diction, sound, rhyme, syntax, parallelism, etc., ).
This relationship of THE HOW (FORM) to THE WHAT (“content” in terms of “meaning” or “significance”) is the relationship your essay should then demonstrate or prove. You want to show the ways that all the elements of the HOW, as individual and conjoined elements of “form,” “work on” or, in other words, they ‘form” or “re-form” the literary text’s initial “materials” [such as feelings, experiences/stances/attitudes related to social, political, historical events, and of course, those sociopolitical/historical events themselves, and the CONCEPTS that represent all of them], and that the formal aspects of the work thereby tend to “construct” or “make” into what we call the literary work’s CONTENT or MEANING or SIGNIFICANCE.
So, to put it briefly:
You’re usually arguing about HOW the literary work’s FORM (in all its aspects) goes on to actively “form” “construct,” or “make” the MEANING/CONTENT out of the literary text’s initial “materials” (and again, those “materials” are BOTH sociopolitical/historical/existential AND the “materials” of previous literary/artistic practices, uses, throughout history, of literary form, and those materials can also include the CONCEPTS by which all that past history is known to the artist, artwork, and audience).