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Fictions of AutonomyModernism from Wilde to de Man$
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Andrew Goldstone

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199861125

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199861125.001.0001

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Autonomy from the Person

Autonomy from the Person

(p.68) 2. Autonomy from the Person
Fictions of Autonomy

Andrew Goldstone

Oxford University Press

Chapter Two brings together T. S. Eliot and Theodor W. Adorno as advocates of the autonomy of the artwork from its creator’s personality. Adorno’s important conception of “late style,” above all in the music of Beethoven, is a modernist theory of impersonality akin to the one Eliot made famous in his essays and thematized in his poems. Yet this version of autonomy is inextricable from Adorno’s and Eliot’s shared emphasis on lateness. Lateness is a stance available to modernists at any age, as the preternatural aging of Eliot’s early “impersonal” personae—from the marionettes of his undergraduate poems through Prufrock, Gerontion, and Tiresias—shows, yet it also ties the artwork to the physical and emotional history of the artist. Eliot and Adorno’s strikingly similar versions of impersonal lateness give new significance to the Beethoven allusions of Eliot’s Four Quartets. Drawing on Beethoven’s reception history, I show how the émigré German and the émigré American converge on the composer’s final period as a touchstone for their paradoxical insistence upon aged and belated subjectivity as the foundation for the autonomy of impersonality.

Keywords:   T. S. Eliot, Theodor W Adorno, Ludwig van Beethoven, late style, poetry and music, aging in literature, Four Quartets, personality, impersonality

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