This latest work from an author known for her contributions to the new cultural history is a multidisciplinary investigation of the foundations of modern politics. "Family Romance" was coined by Freud to describe the fantasy of being freed from one's family and joining one of higher social standing. Lynn Hunt uses the term broadly to describe the images of the familial order underlying revolutionary politics. In a wide-ranging account using novels, engravings, paintings, speeches, newspaper editorials, pornographic writing, and revolutionary legislation about the family, Hunt shows that politics were experienced through the grid of the family romance.
Not just for French specialists, this difficult yet fascinating book should also interest psychohistorians, cultural-intellectual scholars and political scientists. Recognizing that absolutism rested on a model of patriarchal authority, cultural historian Hunt ( Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution , Univ. of California Pr., 1989) uses Freudian terminology to explore what the killing of the father-king Louis XVI meant to the revolutionaries creating a new political order. Examining contemporary painting, literature, and iconography to see how those meanings are expressed, she uncovers the ``collective unconscious images of the familial order'' underlying revolutionary beliefs. Motivating the political struggle, she demonstrates, were changing cultural notions of what defined a ``good'' mother or father, the republican focus on fraternity rather than patriarchy, and efforts to democratize family life.-- Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., N.J.