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Greenacre, P. (1958). "The Family Romance of the Artist". Psychoanal. St. Child, 13:37-43.

(1958). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 13:37-43

"The Family Romance of the Artist"

Phyllis Greenacre


Because of the richness of content and implications of Dr. Greenacre's paper, I shall confine my remarks to a few broad matters of context and import. This is fortunately consistent with my feeling that discussing the details of childhood reconstructions would be quite superfluous, for I know no one who does this more skillfully and intuitively than Dr. Greenacre.

First, Dr. Greenacre's explicitly stated and inclusive operational concept of the artist: I think that this would require a broader term, perhaps "genius," if you wish. For the concept "artist" as ordinarily used is in itself sufficiently large and complex to provide us with difficult problems and confusions for a long time to come, including as it does the creative and performing spheres, the important psychological differences between the major modalities of artistic expression, and even the subdivisions such as prose and poetry, or sculpture and painting. Yet these are bound together, however loosely and variably, by certain common factors and problems: the nature of beauty, for example; or the peculiar psychological significance and relationship of form and content.

Dr. Kris, in his original essay (1935), specified the successive stations of the myth-making biographic interest in childhood: the hero of antiquity (the man of action), later the Christian Saint, and then the Renaissance artist. That the hero, the triumphant child Oedipus (perhaps the hero would be represented by Stanley here) remains at the center of the changing forms, seems reasonable to me, the Christian alternative following the course of total submission, sacrifice, and suffering. (It may not be pure coincidence that both Christ and Oedipus suffered nail wounds in their feet.) Dr. Greenacre discerningly mentions the coexistence of the latent religious violence and cruelty with the very frequent Christian themes of the Renaissance artist, in a period where the revival of classical learning and the surge of the modern spirit of inquiry were integral and probably related elements of the great cultural movement.

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