Freuds short paper entitled 'Family Romances,' attempts to explain the common phenomenon when children first become independent of their parent's authority. The importance of this growth period is duly noted and Freud acknowledges that it is "one of the most necessary though one of the most painful results brought about by the course of a childs development." In the first couple of years of life the "parents are at first the only authority and the source of all belief" and it is only after multiple experiences that the child "gets to know other parents and compares them with his own, and so acquires the right to doubt the incomparable and unique quality he had attributed to them." Eventually, at some point in childhood, the child feels ignored and snubbed by his parents and seeks revenge through imaginary means. Typically, the child imagines that he was born to people who are wealthier than his own parents. When the child learns the facts of childbirth prove the legitimacy of his mother, he enters a second sexual stage where he now only glorifies the father but, with his new-found sexual knowledge, ponders sexual scenarios where he brings "his mother (who is the subject of the most intense sexual curiosity) into situations of secret infidelity and into secret love affairs." It is not hard to see how the "family romance" is relevant to Freud's famous theory of the Oedipus Complex. The neurotic condition is referred to as the "family romance" because the individual emphasizes the nobility of his heritage and creates elaborate heroic fantasies much like fanciful romantic tales. Neurotics are particularly susceptible to this condition because their creative imaginations are geared towards weaving these elaborate tales. The creativity of these authors ensures numerous embellishments on the "family romance" and a particularly intriguing version is where siblings are bastardized in order to bring back significance onto the daydreamer. Freud tries to downplay his cynical and disparaging view of childhood and assures the reader that the child is only trying, desperately, to return to happier times when the parent's status was omnipotent. The concept of "family romance" becomes particularly noteworthy when it is applied more broadly to the larger social movements of history. Like the child who rebels against his parents, it is interesting to see how, similarly, the new generations always rebel against the ideals inherited from their predecessors. Freud himself, in fact, acknowledges, "the whole progress of society rests upon the opposition between successive generations." Disciplines like art, which are particularly associated with creativity, are particularly important, in this respect, because they deny the established traditions in order to realize a new vision. Consequently, it is easy to see how the "family romance" fits in well with the Marxist notion that the function of art is social criticism.


Thomas Cummins art philosophy