The Affect of Dissident Language and Aesthetic Emancipation at the Margins: A Possible Dialogue between Theodor W. Adorno and Julia Kristeva


  • Marcia Morgan Muhlenberg College Department of Philosophy



affect, linguistics, aesthetics, Adorno, Kristeva, emancipation


In this paper I focus on the interaction between affect and language as articulated in the works of Theodor W. Adorno and Julia Kristeva, sometimes in inchoate and non-explicit ways. Language is always in transit, exile, and dispossession. All language is the language of another, or the other, and precisely because of this, it is the site of dissenting and conflicting affect. In this context, my paper traces a missed but necessary dialogue between Adorno and Kristeva. Adorno’s diagnosis of failed subjective inwardness, first presented in his book on Kierkegaard, was sustained throughout Adorno’s entire oeuvre, to the very end, in his posthumous 1969 Aesthetic Theory. I will explicate Adorno’s forced collapsing of subjective interiority into a negative space that opens up aesthetic emancipatory potential. In what follows I place Adorno’s negativity of subjective inwardness and the aesthetic potential after the fact of its destruction in dialogue with the writings of Kristeva, who has likewise diagnosed a subjective interiority of negativity but framed the latter in terms of the female, abjection and maternity. I conclude by placing Kristeva’s work in conversation with Adorno’s philosophy of the language of music, as one example of their shared framework for aesthetic emancipatory experience.

Author Biography

Marcia Morgan, Muhlenberg College Department of Philosophy

Associate Professor of Philosophy
Director, Women's & Gender Studies