“Minima Moralia” Today: A Symposium

An abstract depiction of Theodor Adorno, with a blue fingerprint and a blue and purple skyline

"For a man who no longer has a homeland, writing becomes a place to live" -- §51

Sep. 20, 2019
Mandel Center for the Humanities

Speakers: S.D. Chrostowska (York University), Andrea Dara Cooper (University of North Carolina), Jakob Norberg (Duke University)

The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the renowned critical theorist Theodor Adorno. To mark his passing, this symposium will reflect on, engage with, and theorize about the lasting impact of his work. In particular, this symposium takes as its core text Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, a philosophical touchstone for the latter half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty first. The symposium will investigate the ways that Adorno’s reflections address the damages of contemporary life and/or conceptions of that damaged life.

Additional questions the symposium will raise include the contemporaneity of (or lack thereof) Minima Moralia and Adorno’s distinctive negative dialectics; prospects for interdisciplinary approaches to the text and the problems it examines; the exemplary aspects of Adorno’s implicit dialogue with his friend Max Horkheimer; and the relevance of Minima Moralia for literary, philosophical, sociological, and religious studies.

Additional topics might include:

Requests for Proposals

Proposals addressing these and related themes are invited. Just as Minima Moralia occupies the intersection of various genres—philosophy, cultural criticism, daybook, intellectual memoir—likewise the scope of papers might extend in various directions, so long as Minima Moralia remains their central concern. Topics may include the historical circumstances under which Minima Moralia was written or the pre-war cultural world it elegizes, as well as the continuing theoretical and literary significance of Adorno’s writings. Any creative and focused reading of our shared text is welcome, as are diverse hermeneutic approaches. That said, we particularly invite contributions that examine Adorno’s dialectical method and assess his aphoristic style with a critical eye.

The symposium is the culminating event for a campus group that read Minima Moralia closely over the 2018-19 academic year. The insights generated over this year and in the symposium itself will be preserved in a collection of essays or special issue of an academic journal as well as by means of a sustainable public-facing website.

Presentation Formats

The symposium will feature two kinds of presentation formats.

  1. Traditional paper presentations of 15-20 minutes. Proposals for papers should be 250 words in length.

  2. Two Aphorism Roundtables featuring brief interpretations of aphorism #64 “Morality and Style” and #72 “Second Harvest.” Proposals for the Aphorism Roundtable should be 100 words in length; please specify which aphorism you will address and the expected theme of your remarks.

Please email all proposals to Diana Filar by June 20, 2019.