In this close reading of the first page of Adorno's "Schubert," one aim is to highlight the sheer intensity of Adorno's literary ambition, generating a visual poetics that contributes to the text's striking, and daunting, narrative complexity. With reference to the French poet Louis Aragon, Adorno situates Schubert within a distinctly surrealist landscape--a strategic move that is rhetorically as provocative as it is hermeneutically and methodologically risky. I briefly follow up some of this modernist imagery in Schubert's Winterreise, envisioned here as a nondevelopmental, glacial compositional canvas across which the wanderer wanders with a single idea in mind, forever repeated in subtle variations, affecting atmosphere (Stimmung) but not essence: in Winterreise, as Adorno's text suggests, the mind is lost in its own idea, accommodating the pre-human or post-human experience: life-in-death in the midst of an apocalyptic landscape.
A second aim of this paper is to respond to Adorno's stylistic provocation: do we need poetry in music criticism, or indeed criticism as poetry? Do we need allegories of death and Utopian landscapes to talk about music? As will be argued, "Schubert" is a text whose author does not deny that his subject matter--Schubert--is, in fact, wholly fictional. Moreover, as Adorno goes on to describe Winterreise as a journey in search of an inner, and de-centered, self, and as we see this journey slowly unfold before our eyes, it becomes more than usually apparent that Adorno's true subject matter is the admission and expression of emotion. With great poetic acumen, his pen traces like a seismograph the rhythmic pulsations and shockwaves traversing Schubert's landscape. Adorno's essay begins with a fully imagined and powerfully articulated landscape, and as he goes on to render "Schubert's landscape" visible, his text takes on a geography that informs us about the structure of the very selves it describes: first Schubert's; then Adorno's; and finally, possibly, our own.
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