[These materials have been excerpted by the author from Jerome Bump, "The Family Dynamics of the Reception of Art," Style 31.2 (1997): 328-350]

Decorative Initial Within psychoanalysis it is primarily object relations theorists who acknowledge the importance of the family and social relations. They acknowledge that in the first six months of human life "the unit is not the individual, the unit is an environmental-individual set-up. The center of gravity does not start off in the individual" but in the preoedipal relationship of mother and child (Winnicott 99). Moreover, with the impact of general systems theory, quantum mechanics, and field and chaos theories, there has been a transition from the drive model to relational-model theories in other versions of psychoanalysis as well. As Barbara Schapiro observed in Literature and the Relational Self,

the basic unit of study is not the individual as a separate entity ... but an interactional field'... the psyche cannot be understood as a discrete, autonomous structure... `The person is comprehended only within the tapestry of relationships, past and present . . . This relational model in the social and natural sciences has implications for the critical models and frameworks that we bring to the study of literature and the arts. With its focus on dynamic, interactive patterns and relationships, the relational paradigm can redirect our attention to the interconnections, and not just the disruptions, in our cultural and literary analysis. While dismissing essentialist structures and absolute categories or truths, the relational model nevertheless highlights significant orders of connection and relationship; it expands the possibilities for meaning in our understanding of human experience and in the creative reconstruction of that experience in art and literature. (Schapiro 2, 5).

In response to feminist scholarship, psychoanalysts of art, traditionally preoccupied with Oedipal dynamics, are now beginning to include the preoedipal relationships of child and mother and thus expand the familial interaction to include both parents. Nevertheless, even recent psychoanalyses of art rarely recognize the importance of the relationships of all family members and that of the family as a unit, much less repetition between generations. When they do, as at times in Schapiro's book, the focus remains on the individual rather than the group and thus is still more intrapsychic rather than truly interpsychic in scope. This is surprising because even though scholars like Schapiro cite general systems theory, they seem unaware that in the 1950s general systems theory generated family systems theory (Foley 39-45, Bradshaw 27) which identified the patterns of interactions and feedback loops in families and has led to many new, successful modes of treatment for anorexia, addiction, depression, dependence, and many other dysfunctions.

Family Dynamics and the Limitations of Psychoanalytic and Postmodern Conceptions of Self


Victorian Overview Charlotte Brontë Anne Brontë Thomas Hardy Science and Technology

Last modified 1998