'Civil Monsters': The Enlightened Dialectics of Othello

Sam Hall

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Shakespeare's Othello, a play written on the cusp of the modern era, is manifestly concerned with the destructive consequences of racial intolerance. This thematic parallel could provide grounds for a reading of the play informed by Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. However, if one attends to the concerns about hypostatization and its relationship to instrumental reason tacit in the play, a more nuanced reading, which takes into account not only what the Dialectic can tell us about the play, but also how the play presages the Dialectic, is possible; it is this reading that I will here undertake and that will hopefully allow us to penetrate the reasons behind the intolerance to that which does not fit into pre-conceived categories, of which Othello and Desdemona—not to mention the exiled Horkheimer and Adorno—were victims.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)13-26
Number of pages13
JournalPostgraduate Journal of Aesthetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2012


  • Othello
  • Adorno
  • Dialectic of Enlightenment

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