Antonia Hofstätter (University of Brighton): ‘I am a rhinoceros’: reflections on a passage in Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory

In a crucial passage in the section on ‘Semblance and Expression’ in Aesthetic Theory, Adorno writes about the distinction between ordinary communicative language and the mimetic language of art. While communicative language expresses something to a recipient, mimetic language is more akin to the language of things themselves. The eloquence of artworks thus seems to express a certain kind of self-hood: just as, according to Adorno, the Etruscan vases in the Villa Giulia seem to say ‘here I am’ or ‘this is what I am’, ‘the rhinoceros, the mute animal, seems to say: “I am a rhinoceros”.’ (ÄT, 112) In my talk, I will explore in more detail the strange self-hood of Adorno’s rhinoceros to shed light on some key issues of Adorno’s aesthetics and its wider significance to his philosophy.


Antonia Hofstätter completed her PhD on the significance of art and aesthetics to Adorno’s philosophy at the University of Brighton in 2017. She is currently a visiting scholar at the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics, and Ethics at the University of Brighton.

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