The Aesthetics of Kinship intervenes critically into rigidified discourses about the emergence of the nuclear family and the corresponding interior subject in the eighteenth century. By focusing on kinship constellations instead of “family plots” in seminal literary works of the period, this book presents an alternative view of the eighteenth-century literary social world and its concomitant ideologies. Whereas Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophy and political theory posit the nuclear family as a microcosm for the ideal modern nation-state, literature of the period offers a far more heterogeneous image of kinship structures, one that includes members of various classes and is not defined by blood. Through a radical re-reading of the multifarious kinship structures represented in literature of the long eighteenth century, The Aesthetics of Kinship questions the inevitability of the dialectic of the Enlightenment and invokes alternative futures for conceptions of social and political life.
HEIDI SCHLIPPHACKE is a professor of Germanic studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Her research explores the intersections of aesthetics, gender, sexuality, and social forms in the European Enlightenment and in post-WWII German-language literature, thought, and film. She is the author of Nostalgia After Nazism: History, Home, and Affect in German and Austrian Literature and Film (Bucknell University Press).
“Historically significant and extremely timely! Schlipphacke’s fascinating turn to the period tableaux compellingly illustrates aesthetic experiments with diverse forms of relations, fruitfully challenging accounts of the rise of the nuclear family.”
— Stefani Engelstein
“Schlipphacke’s smart style brings the eighteenth-century tableau into vivid life. This wonderfully learned study expands our understanding of the eighteenth-century tableau beyond its immediate theatrical and painterly associations to show how it reframed models of family and kinship. Challenging the long standing presumption that the Bildungsroman coalesced around the nuclear family, Schlipphacke illuminates the tableau’s elastic depiction of porous social relations across an array of genres and media. Her queer, allegorical sensibility draws our attention away from the hermeneutic depths of the Romantic nuclear family onto the tableau’s surface alignments. The Aesthetics of Kinship brilliantly condenses eighteenth-century theories of spectatorship, theater, and the novel.”
— Daniel Purdy
“Schlipphacke demonstrates an active curiosity and adept intellect as she analyzes literary forms (such as unconventional endings and halted narrative progression) as challenges to the inward-focused, nuclear family as it begins to unfold into the nineteenth century. Rare is the scholar who links the study of social relations to aesthetics.”
— Alice Kuzniar
“The Aesthetics of Kinship provides a thoroughly new understanding of how German authors, including major ones like Lessing, Schiller, and Goethe, used tableaux, props, and letters to highlight multiple types of family kinships that depict heterogeneous social groupings that highlight diversity, and that defy any narrow definition of ‘family.’”
— Susan Gustafson