Friday, July 15, 2005

Hegel, Adorno, & Charlotte’s Web

I don’t really know much about the compositional history of Minima Moralia, but Adorno’s “Memento” – his little compositional handbook – is the very first piece of Part II, which suggests a taking-stock, a pause to assess what writing means to him and how writing should be gone about.

Properly written texts are like spiders’ webs: tight, concentric, transparent, well-spun and firm. They draw into themselves all the creatures of the air. Metaphors flitting hastily through them become their nourishing prey. Subject matter comes winging towards them. The soundness of a conception can be judged by whether it causes one quotation to summon another. Where thought has opened up one cell of reality, it should, without violence by the subject, penetrate the next. It proves its relation to the object as soon as other objects crystallize around it. In the light that it casts on its chosen subjects, other begin to glow. (87)

Something for Bob Archambeau, crusading for a new/late modernism, to chew on there, I believe.

On the other hand, someone has finally come out and said it:

Too many excuses have been made for abominable philosophical prose, so let us just say outright: Hegel was a horrible writer. (His contemporary Jacobi commented on an unsigned essay: “I recognize the bad style.”)

–Robert C. Solomon, In the Spirit of Hegel: A Study of G. W. F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (New York: Oxford UP, 1983) xi.

1 comment:

Josh_Hanson said...

I'm not sure "Bad Writer" really covers it.

But I recently heard an anecdote about Max Weber who claimed that his own prose was so horrid on purpose, as he didn't want to be accused of any kind of sophism, winning the reader over with his style.

Now that's a good line.