Love of Things: Reconsidering Adorno’s Criticism of Rilke

Lukas Hoffman


Literary scholars often pair Rainer Maria Rilke, long recognized as a philosopher’s poet, with different philosophical schools to emphasize novel aspects of his poetics. This paper seeks to highlight the ethical dimensions of Rilke’s thing poetry, proposing that the critical philosophy of Theodor Adorno shares structural affinities with Rilke’s poetics. This proposition stands in contrast to a large body of scholarship that positions Rilke’s aesthetics alongside phenomenologists such as Husserl or Heidegger. Reading Adorno against the grain of his own critique of Rilke, this paper suggests that Rilke’s thing poems explore how alienated subjects can ethically relate to their surroundings. The minimal ethics of Rilke’s thing poetry ultimately cultivates a critical love of things as a response to the alienation of the modern world. (LH)

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