The aesthetics of the shock, part I

Adorno, avant-garde art and the uncanny


  • Tidhar Nir Tel-Aviv University


Adorno, Freud, Benjamin, uncanny, aesthetics


Even though Freud's well-known concept of the uncanny has gained considerable influence in the field of aesthetics and beyond, the meaning of the term still remains vague. Is it a mere psychological concept with aesthetic and social implications or is it a culturally produced experience? And although Adorno’s aesthetic theory does not place the concept of the uncanny as its central axis, when linked to Freud's theory, Adorno's conception deepens not only various interpretations of modern art, but also our understanding of the very nature of artistic practice. Psychoanalytic interpretations of modern art couple the uncanny with technology and progress since human-machine interactions usually entail disturbing experiences. Yet no psychoanalytic interpretation of art to date has seen the uncanny as the theoretical foundation of all art. The first part of this essay deals with Adorno’s concept of aesthetic representation in relation to Freud’s uncanny and examines Benjamin’s application of that reasoning in interpreting the technological uncanny and the artistic uncanny.

Author Biography

Tidhar Nir, Tel-Aviv University

Tidhar Nir has recived his Ph.D in Philosophy in 2011 from Tel-Aviv University. His work dealt with Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory and psychoanalysis, and was published as a book, The Tragic Rebellion, in 2016. His contemporary research focuses on the relevance of the critical theory of the Frankfurt School to contemporary political and cultural theories.


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