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Doing Aesthetics with ArendtHow to See Things$
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Cecilia Sjöholm

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231173087

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231173087.001.0001

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Comedy in the Dark

Comedy in the Dark

Arendt, Chaplin, and Anti-Semitism

(p.133) 5 Comedy in the Dark
Doing Aesthetics with Arendt

Cecilia Sjöholm

Columbia University Press

Opposite the stern political theorizing of the previous four chapters, Sjöholm concludes her text with an analysis of comedy. Charlie Chaplin represents, for Arendt, the serious mode of comedy that presents a necessary ideology critique; Chaplin is the split that modernity demands from subjects, the dictator yet also the proletariat, the bureaucratic insistence that Chaplin, like Eichmann, could be the next totalitarian leader. Anti-Semitism solidifies the foundations of totalitarianism and uses the Arendtian concept of ‘realness’ to pervade the minds of the public. Thus, propaganda and media were of primary importance to totalitarian regimes – deconstructing reality in order to posit the imaginary power of the fascist leader. Anti-Semitism is the product of the enlightenment (following the Frankfurt School) in which the Jew was the exclusion needed to be exiled. Art is paramount in Arendt’s philosophy because of the political dependence on aesthetics as action. Art emulates the freedom and spontaneity necessary to resist totalitarian moments and authority. Concluding, Sjöholm argues that art solidifies all major political tenants in Arendt: including an ontology of plurality, the public sphere and solidarity.

Keywords:   Comedy, Charlie Chaplin, anti-Semitism, Adorno, The Frankfurt School, ideology

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