Melancholy as form
Towards an archaeology of modernism
in The new aestheticism

In order to begin prosecuting the conception of modernism, this chapter sketches out the central lineaments of the dialectic of spleen and ideal as they are presented in T . W. Adorno's modernist philosophical aesthetics.American Pastoral can be conceived as performing an archaeology of American modernism, the spleen incumbent upon, or proper to, our ideals. The beauty of the American dream as exemplified by Seymour Levov physically and practically is the charismatic authority of 'America', the idea of America. Tracing the fate of secular normativity as integral to the character and meaning of aesthetic normativity is very much the burden of P. Roth's American Pastoral. The role of beauty in history, its failure, to state the thought at its weakest, is the condition for an art of spleen, for American novelistic modernism. Modernist art is autonomous art, but autonomous art must always be understood as possessing a 'double character'.


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