Adrian Daub’s The Dynastic Imagination offers an unexpected account of modern German intellectual history through frameworks of family and kinship. Modernity aimed to brush off dynastic, hierarchical authority and to make society anew through the mechanisms of marriage, siblinghood, and love. It was, in other words, centered on the nuclear family. But as Daub shows, the dynastic imagination persisted, in time emerging as a critical stance by which the nuclear family’s conservatism and temporal limits could be exposed. Focusing on the complex interaction between dynasties and national identity-formation in Germany, Daub shows how a lingering preoccupation with dynastic modes of explanation, legitimation, and organization suffused German literature and culture.
Daub builds this conception of dynasty in a syncretic study of literature, sciences, and the history of ideas, engaging with remnants of dynastic ideology in the work of Richard Wagner, Émile Zola, and Stefan George, and in the work of early feminists and pioneering psychoanalysts. At every stage of cultural progression, Daub reveals how the relation of dynastic to nuclear families inflected modern intellectual history.