Alongside the important positivistic philosophies of the early 19th century, the representation of a negative experience of time became a dominant literary topic, as the great writers of the age confronted the loud "YES" of the philosophers with a well-formulated "No". Where did it spring from, this suggestive power of a literature that preferred transience to futurity, melancholy to fulfilment, ungrounded mourning to the optimism of a burgeoning philosophy of history? Did literature, by insisting on aesthetic negativity, challenge the philosophers' positive perception?
Karl Heinz Bohrer traces the dark line that leads from Leopardi to Kafka to the present, analysing the structure of perceived time and its imaginative treatment. He is interested not in a historical presentation of negative attitudes toward time, but in the ways in which other time perceptions confront the positive blueprints of philosophers from Hegel to Heidegger. Where the lawfulness of aesthetic negativity is confirmed, the utopian-optimistic outlines of 20th century philosophy appear both unlawful and unfounded. Aesthetic negativity thus represents an essential component of the modern discourse.