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The Concept of Sociality in the Literary Criticism of Georg Lukács, Lucien Goldmann, and Theodor W. Adorno

Daglind E. Sonolet (Université Michel de Montaigne, France)

The Centrality of Sociality

ISBN: 978-1-80262-362-8, eISBN: 978-1-80262-361-1

Publication date: 12 December 2022


Michael Brown argues that what unites the human and social sciences is their evolving character, made explicit in the concepts of “reflexivity,” “course of activity,” and “theorizing.” Once the social sciences are taken as a whole, the notion of “sociality” will allow to grasp society as ever changing, as a becoming. I shall examine the notion of sociality in the literary criticism of Lukács, Goldmann, and Adorno, three authors who consider the essay as the adequate open form of critique in times of rapid social change. Originally adopted by the young Lukács, the essay tended to be abandoned by him when elaborating the concept of critical or socialist realism as a repository of timeless cultural values. In his studies in the European realist or the soviet novel, for example, on Balzac, Stendhal, Thomas Mann, or Solzhenitsyn, the dialectical concept of social totality becomes a sum of orientations, presenting the individual writer with the moral task to choose “progress” and discard “negativity.” The social is thus narrowed to individual choice. Different from Lukács, Goldmann's literary theory defines cultural production as a matter of the social group, the transindividual subject. Goldmann was deeply marked by Lukács's early writings from which he gained notably the notion of tragedy and the concept of maximum possible consciousness—the world vision of a social group which structures the work of a writer. Cultural creation is resistance to capitalist society, as evident in the literature of absence, Malraux's novels, and the nouveau roman. In the writings of Adorno the social is lodged within the avant-garde, provided that one takes its means and procedures literally, e.g., the writings of Kafka. By formal innovation—among others the adoption of the essay, the small form, the fragment—art exercises criticism of the ongoing rationalization process and preserves the possibility of change (p. 319).



Sonolet, D.E. (2022), "The Concept of Sociality in the Literary Criticism of Georg Lukács, Lucien Goldmann, and Theodor W. Adorno", Halley, J.A. and Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) The Centrality of Sociality (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 39), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 87-123.



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