Freud’s concept of der Familienroman, translated as “the family romance,” is a developmental stage that begins as the child grows intellectually and discovers the limitations of his parents. It is defined as a series of changing fantasies: after noticing that other sets of parents are perhaps more impressive than his own, the child imagines that he was adopted; having become sexually aware, he goes on to fantasize that his mother was impregnated by a man who is not his father. Since this is Freud, the term should be considered more polemical than literal. In an introduction to the 1909 paper “Der Familienroman der Nerotiker,” Freud’s biographer Peter Gay points out that the German suffix “-roman” has two meanings: “romance,” for one, but also “novel,” an appropriate subtext for an idea that is rooted in the stories a child tells himself about having been the product of deeply repressed family secrets. Read More
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