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The Women in Literature and Life Assembly
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The National Council of Teachers of English
Editor:  Patricia Kelly kellyp@vt.edu
Volume 1
Fall 1992


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The Transformational Rhetoric of Photography in Sue Miller's Family Pictures

by Brenda O. Daly

In Family Pictures Sue Miller writes from a double visioned narrative position: her narrator, Nina Eberhardt, is at once an expectant mother looking forward to her new family and a daughter looking back upon the lives of her parents and five siblings, one of whom was born autistic. Because Nina's family is large and complex and because she wishes to tell the stories of all members of her family, not just the story of her own adolescence, she must revise the child-centered narrative strategies of the conventional Freudian family romance. Instead, Nina employs a multi-voiced narrative strategy that opens a space from which the mother, who has long been silenced in both fictional and psychoanalytic narratives, may finally speak and claim her own subjectivity. This is a radical innovation when one considers the fact that, historically, both psychoanalytic and fictional narratives have silenced the mother, predicating the child-narrator's claim to agency and subjectivity upon an objectification of the mother. Such a denial of maternal subjectivity is more problematic for a daughter who, unlike a son, must decide whether or not to become a mother herself, a choice that has become available to most women only recently. Prior to the discovery of effective birth control and prior to the second wave of the women's movement, the fate of most women has been that of their mothers before them: bear and care for children, often at the expense of their own subjectivity and at the price of their confinement in the devalued domestic sphere.

In this historical context, Family Pictures may be considered a feminist revision of the Freudian family romance, that narrative of identity in which the speaking subject is situated, as Julia Kristeva says, "in the interior of the oedipal triangle" (quoted in Hirsch, 10).1 As Marianne Hirsch explains in The Mother/Daughter Plot, this pattern does not suit female narrators; therefore, female and feminist family romances necessarily situate themselves in a revisionary relationship to the Freudian pat tern, with the fictional heroine often having to occupy the position of subject and that of object in the narrative. Revisions reframe the basic paradigm to include stories of daughters and eventually also stories of mothers (10).

In her analysis of mother/daughter stories, Hirsch sees some change from the nineteenth century to the present: in the nineteenth century the heroine desires a singularity based on a disidentification from the fate of other women, especially mothers; in the modernist period the heroine adds "artistic ambition" to "the desire for distinction which now, however, needs to include affiliation with both male and female models"; and in the post modernist period female narratives illustrate "fantasies of a more multiple relational identity, including stories of mothers who by definition are entangled in relations which define and circum scribe all further desire" (10). Rarely, according to Hirsch, do mothers appear in the stories of daughters. When they do appear, they function "as alternate objects of desire," until "eventually, mothers begin to appear as subjects" (11).

In Family Pictures Nina Eberhardt moves, in a single lifetime, through the nearly two centuries of historical changes that Hirsch identifies: from an adolescent's desire for singularity and a need to disidentify with her mother and sisters, to a young adult's focus on artistic ambition, and finally, after a period of reflection on her former self, to a mature desire for affiliation with other women, including her mother and sisters. The novel ends just as Nina is about to begin her own family, when she is capable of looking back and critiquing the "daughter-centricity" of her former identity (Daly and Reddy, 2). Having reached this insight, Nina recognizes her own narrative, not as singular, but as one among others; at the same time, she also recognizes he, mother as a separate subject, not simply as an object left behind in her own quest for identity. Since Nina is a professional photographer, she uses the rhetoric of photography to identify the inter subjective space in which her transformation from a mother rejecting to a mother-accepting daughter occurs. Each time references to photographs or Freud surface in the novel, and usually they occur together, they indicate an important moment in Nina's maturation, as do the rooms in which dramas take place. "Someone's in the Kitchen with Freud," Jane Smiley says in her review of the novel, and that someone is Nina's mother, Lainey. However, if Nina is to recover her mother's story and her own, she must revise the traditional Oedipal, or child-centered, narrative, inventing a strategy that does not silence the maternal voice. To accomplish this goal, Miller does not simply suppress the more familiar father/son plot, replacing it with a mother/daughter plot; her solution is more complex, requiring shifts in familial perspective that illustrate how Nina is both subject and object and how her story intersects with others in her large family, including her mother's.

Miller might, for example, have ended the novel with Nina's pregnancy alone, but she doubles the emotional impact when Nina, as narrator, chooses to close the novel with a flash back to a time prior to her own birth: at the moment when Lainey's water breaks, announcing the birth of a child born with autism, a boy named Randall. David and Lainey are making love. an experience that "felt nearly holy" to Lainey, who "thought of it in words that came to her from religion, words like riven, cleft" (105), an association that David considers "nearly blasphemous" (123). Significantly, Nina will come to see this moment as her mother does, despite the fact that Randall's affliction has such tragic effects upon the Eberhardt family. In fact, despite his autism, or perhaps because of it, Randall plays a key part in the lives of all the Eberhardts. The novel itself actually spans the years of Randall's life, from 1950 to 1979. During these years David and Lainey separate because of their deep conflicts over the cause of Randall's illness and his proper care, and Nina frequently finds herself torn by divided loyalties. The drama begins in the kitchen where Nina, still a toddler, cries "No, man!" (43) when she sees the piercing eyes of Freud in a picture hanging on the wall. To comfort Nina, Lainey takes down the picture of Freud that David had hung, explaining to her psychiatrist husband that because Freud's "piercing stare had frightened Nina," she had replaced it with "a slightly overexposed photograph of him with his wife in a garden," a photo David describes, condescendingly, as "more domesticated" (43). This moment announces Miller's revisionary intentions, locating the conflict in David and Lainey's divergent world views, views apparent in their preferences for different rhetorics: David's is identified as scientific, specifically psychoanalytic; Lainey's as a "pre-Freudian" unorthodox spirituality (345).

The conflict between these different systems of belief is dramatized by the family's use of language. For example, metaphors of "sickness" and "cure" recur in this highly verbal family, metaphors which have different meanings for Nina's parents, whose phrases come from different familial and professional contexts. David's notion of "cure" comes, not only from psychiatry, but from a family in which his mother ran the family business while his pharmacist father openly committed adultery. By contrast, Lainey's minister father is faithful to his wife but traditional in his views of women. He discourages Lainey's desire to prepare for the ministry, despite her deep spirituality and intelligence. The conflict between the Eberhardts is apparent, for example, when Lainey argues, "We say almost everything is a disease. But that's not a fact; it's a judgment. Why don't we just say it's not. Let's just say it's not. What happens then!" (154), and a quarrel with David follows immediately. Lainey's spirituality is also evident in her response to a dream that her oldest son tells her. Randall appeared in a dream, "cured" (344), Mack says, to which Lainey responds, "'Oh, what did he say?"' (345). In contrast to a Freudian analysis of dreams, which would interpret Randall's appearance as the fulfillment of Mack's wish, Lainey's response suggests that dreams "could still have a nearly biblical quality. She was like some pre-Freudian who believes that dreams, even the dreams of others, carry messages for her. That word can come this way -- if not from God, then from a beloved son" (345). It is not surprising, then, that Randall's care becomes Lainey's ministry whereas David, who assumes that his wife has caused his son's illness, opposes her efforts to care for Randall in the home.

That David views his wife as the cause of Randall's condition is evident from his own written account, a journal in which he uses the abbreviation R for his observations of Randall, later shifting his attention to observations of L, his wife, Lainey. His clinical tone denies the pain he suffers when, after seeing his two year-old son riding as "emperor" in the neighborhood Fourth of July parade, he finally ends his denial, confronting the fact that something is terribly wrong with Randall. At this moment, it seems the other children, the parade itself, the adultwatching, all swirl and blur, are only color, motion, like the back ground in a photograph. Dead in the middle, motionless in the carriage he shares with his tiny queen, sits Randall, unseeing, inert, his sequined, glittering cardboard crown perched square on his head. (21)

Randall is an Oedipus who will never declare his independence, who will never tell his story, though David doesn't yet know this. Seeking a scientific explanation and cure for Randall's condition, David accepts Bruno Bettelheim's psychoanalytic explanation that autism is caused by a "refrigerator mother" who unconsciously rejects her child, a view that finally ends in David and Lainey's divorce. As Nina reads her father's journal, she under stands that her mother had been injured by her father's professional point of view: Slowly the pattern emerges: a medical system that can't, won't, provide answers about Randall that don't implicate my mother; my mother desperately insistent that he's the one who needs help, not her; my father implicitly a part of the system that's making the accusations, that's saying she's the one who caused the disease. (26)

Within the scientific context, Lainey has little chance of being heard; her faith finds expression only in her care for Randall and in her desire for more children, a desire David does not share. In retrospect, Nina recognizes her fathers hostility to Lainey's childbirth "cure" in his nicknames for his three youngest daughters -- Nina, Mary, and Sarah -- all born after the autistic Randall. David often greets his three daughters as "the unexpected guests," "the surprise party," "the extras," "the coup de grace," or "the last straws" (5), all phrases that indicate these children were not wanted. These phrases also fail to differentiate Nina from her younger sisters, evidence that she has no individual identity for her father. Because the need for "singularity" is so important to Nina at this stage of her maturation, she takes up photography to disidentify with her mother and sisters, hoping to achieve recognition from her father. The camera enables Nina to escape from the pain of family life by distancing herself with clinical observations similar to those of her powerful father. Just as David records his observations of Randall's autism, Nina at first uses her camera to manage her feelings about Randall. Lainey notices Nina's preoccupation with photographing Randall, and years later she remarks, while looking through the family photo album, "I used to think that you were trying to get some handle on him by taking his picture over and over. That you were trying to solve some mystery" (430). During this same period, Nina also adopts her father's mother-blaming views.

Her adolescent arrogance first becomes apparent when, at age thirteen, she has just received a camera as a gift from her father who, at this time, has separated from Lainey. While eating popcorn with her mother and two younger sisters, a ritual of togetherness, Nina asserts her singularity, declaring her difference from her sisters and her independence from her mother. Nina has decided not to attend summer camp with her younger sister, as in previous years, but instead to take a course in photography at the Art Institute. To separate herself from her younger sisters who are snuggled against their mother on her bed, Nina holds her camera and sits "at the foot [of the bed], no closer" (220) to protect her fragile new individuality. From this distance, she challenges her mother's narrative authority. Lainey is talking about her children, expressing understandable maternal concern for her oldest daughter Liddie, who is just home from college and already intensely involved with a young man named Gregory, when Nina announces with confidence, "I think Liddie will marry Gregory" (221). It is Nina's knowledge that Liddie and Gregory have had sex, based on her secret voyeurism, that gives her such self-assurance at this moment. Of course, readers know, as Nina will know only in retrospect, that by 1965 when this scene takes place, even "nice" girls did not necessarily marry after sex. As the adult Nina also recognizes, her mother's wish that her daughters not marry before age thirty comes from her deep love for them .

Lainey recognizes that Nina is using her camera to assert her superiority, for she says, "Look at Nina, making us get little and unimportant in her magic lens" to which Nina responds, grinning, "It's true. You're shrimps. A million miles away" (223). Minutes later Nina's humor turns into hostility. While Lainey is trying to help Nina figure out the directions for her camera, she accuses her mother of always exaggerating things. Nina's tone antagonizes Lainey who had been telling the story of a previous summer when, because of the polio scare, she had "spent hours -- hours, I promise you -- boiling dishes and sterilizing things the year Randall was born" (224). With a "blank, unsympathetic" face, Nina had replied, "You're exaggerating, Mother" (224), defiantly repeating her accusation. Lainey responds with sarcasm, calling her "my sweet judge" and adding "how very helpful" it is that Nina can tell when she exaggerates. "Perhaps you'd like to tell me -- to tell us all -- tell us how you know so very much about it all' (225), Lainey says. Afterward, ashamed of her angry sarcasm, Lainey recalls that she had associated Nina's self assured and arrogant tone of voice with the voices of "David and the pediatrician, the two men talking together [about Randall] in those resonant, professional tones Lainey hated" (225). This same tone would also have been evident in David's clinical descriptions of Randall in the journal which Lainey had discovered and read.

When the adolescent Nina adopts this tone, she identifies with her father whom she sees as having escaped from the burdens of family life. In this same popcorn-eating scene, how ever, Lainey describes the absent David as living the life of a bachelor, pretending to be 30 again, while she is "a fat elderly lady with so many kids she doesn't know what to do" (221). The adolescent Nina wants to be an "escapee" from the old woman in the shoe, as her father and Liddie appear to be, but the adult Nina recognizes this desire as a symptom of "matrophobia," a phobia that Adrienne Rich identifies as pervasive in our culture. Matrophobia is apparent not only in David's mother-blaming psychiatric views, but in his affairs with other women. His fear of aging, of mortality, prompts him to escape the family, leaving the burden of Randall's care to Lainey while he dates other women, some young enough to be his daughters. David's vision, as both a psychiatrist and a father, silences the maternal, repressing that which is associated with the life of the body, with births and deaths. It is this same tunnel vision, Miller implies, that leads psychiatrists such as Bruno Bettelheim to blame mothers for children's supposed psychological problems.2 David finally recognizes that Bettelheim is wrong, that "Randall's illness was only bad luck, fate. He'd known that Lainey hadn't caused it, he'd known that he was wrong, had been wrong, to think so" (286). It is not accidental that David's revelation occurs while he is putting Randall's urine-soaked sheets into the washer, a "Lainey-like" chore that he has seldom performed.

Likewise, Nina's self-revision does not occur until she too has been placed in a "Lainey-like" position. Nina's change takes place after she has suffered a miscarriage that the doctor explains as nature's way of aborting a malformed foetus, a situation reminiscent of her mother's prior to the birth of Randall. Up until this point, Nina's profession had been a means for distancing herself from the maternal, for containing it, as had her father and Freud before her (3). Although her parents are now divorced Nina goes home to recover and to try to solve the puzzle of her place in the family. In the guest room of her mother's apartment. in which the memoirs of family life are now stored, Nina literally sorts through "the unpacked boxes and trunks" (14). She and Lainey talk about photos in the family albums, but during this same visit she also shows her father some of her recent professional photographs of children on a playground. She explains, "I'd been experimenting with a technique that results in a central sharp image around which the background appears to whirl in dizzying motion" (17), a technique meant to evoke the experience of childhood, she says, "when you focus on what's important to you so clearly that everything else swims out of your consciousness" (18). Recalling his own painful memory of his son as the little emperor of the Independence Day Parade, the inert center of a blurred background, David tells Nina that he doesn't especially like her photographs. Despite deteriorating eyesight, the "tunnel vision" of old age, he dismisses Nina's work with the comment, "It's all really a gimmick, isn't it?" (18) Nina, who is "stung" by her father's words, defends her work with the explanation that technique can be defined, in fact, as "gimmick perfected" (18). Fortunately, David is honest enough to recognize his cruelty and to apologize, explaining later that his response to her photographs was based on some unconscious associations directly linked to painful memories of family life.

With this confession, he hands Nina the journal in which he had recorded his observations of R and L, revealing his mother-blaming view of Lainey that had ended their marriage. It is a view of the family drama which he later revised, but which continues to burden him with guilt. Since both David and Nina have chronicled family life, we are invited to make certain comparisons. Unlike David's clinical point of view in the journal and unlike the children's point of view that Nina captures with her camera, the novel itself offers a complex narrative of familial perspectives that shift in time and space. It becomes apparent that Nina, the adult narrator, has revised her former self, the Nina who, as a photographer, sought to disidentify with her mother and sisters. Nina's narrative point of view is fluidly familial, with temporal shifts from one generation to another, as well as spatial shifts from one member of the family to another, from David's perception, for example, to Lainey's, or from Nina's to her older brother, Macklin's. The opening scene of Family Pictures high lights this novelistic technique. On the occasion of Mack's fourteenth birthday party, the narrator recalls, the usually silent Randall had spoken. "It seems as clear to me as a picture I might have taken," Nina begins, but her mother and older sister Liddie argue that Randall never spoke after age four, recalling that Nina. who was just an infant at the time, couldn't possibly remember hearing Randall speak. Liddie claims that, in fact, Nina has "appropriated" her memory, just as she has "everything in our family's history," changing it to suit her own needs. "But that's the way it is in a family, isn't it?" (4) asks Nina as narrator, not insisting upon her version of the truth, but rather acknowledging that stories get passed around, "polished and embellished," until the facts can no longer be objectively determined.

In addition, the narrator explains that, over time, one's own perspective changes. "Your perspective, your way of telling the story -- of seeing it -- changes as time passes. As you change" (4). Thus, Nina's story, which is embedded in family life, changes, as does her view of the family. A more mature Nina comes to value, not the isolated Freud with the "piercing" eyes, but the Freud her mother had chosen: a Freud "who looked puzzled...[who] was frowning into the sun in front of some rosebushes. His wife's hand rested on his shoulder like a claim, though she held her body a little distance from him" (43). Likewise, as narrator of her family's story, Nina does not portray herself as having clinically detached "piercing" eyes or as situated above and outside her characters, but rather as a sometimes "puzzled" participant observer located on the same plane as others in her family. Nina is a dialogic rather than a monologic narrator, to use Mikhail Bakhtin's distinction, not only because she occupies the same democratic plane as that of her characters, which makes her both the subject and object of narration, but also because in the very process of narration, she herself changes as a result of relationships with others. Nina's shifting preferences for the "piercing" and for the "puzzled" Freud show how she must revise Freud's family romance if she herself is not to be devalued, as Lainey was by David and, more generally, as mothers are by our entire society.

Following her miscarriage, Nina is finally ready to imagine her mother's point of view in the family.3 It is for this reason that Nina tries to make a scene between her now divorced parents. This re-enactment of the family frame takes place when David, who is engaged to be married, comes to Lainey's apartment to pick up Nina for dinner. Seeing his former wife painting theater sets, David remarks, "Still making scenes, I see" (462), a witty comment at which his former wife laughs. She understands the Joke as a reference to both the sets she is painting, as well as to his own guilt for having blamed Lainey for "making scenes" about Randall. More generally, the phrase "making scenes" is a reference to the family drama in which they have all played their parts. It becomes apparent, for example, that Nina herself is given to making scenes, for she returns her father's journal in the presence of her mother, even though she knows that his mother blaming journal is the major cause of her parents' divorce. If Nina is trying to "cure" her own psychic wound, she is still doing so at the expense of her mother. However, the more mature Nina, the narrator, acknowledges this act as egocentric. She recognizes her egocentricity during her adolescence when she had imagined herself the star of the family drama. For example, in 1966 Nina "could barely see the events in the world of weather or in her parents' lives, she was so blinded by those taking place inside her" (289), but during this same year her father had returned to the family after a period of separation, and Randall had finally been moved to an institution. Nina had moved into the room recently vacated by her autistic brother. Yet the family had become "merely the stage on which Nina's life was acted out" (293), as if Nina now wants for herself the place at center-stage which Randall had once occupied in the family drama.

With spatial re-configurations such as these within the family home, Miller represents changes in Nina's subjectivity as she makes that inward journey by which a woman seeks to under stand herself, not as an object of male desire, but as an agent of her own desire. As Jessica Benjamin suggests, spatial images are associated with inter-subjective identity. For example, early in the novel Nina and her younger sisters go outside to play a gam~ called "The Movies" in which they spy on their neighbors from the darkness outside lighted windows. In their imaginative play they watch adults, including the flirtations of their parents at par ties, to understand their own emerging sexuality. Later, Nina replaces "The Movies" with her camera which also provides an imaginative space in which she can try out different identities Unlike the movies game, however, the camera enables Nina to achieve a sense of singularity and, like her psychiatrist father. imagine herself as an "escapee" from the family. Nevertheless during this same period of her life, Nina is very much contained within the family drama, a fact made apparent by her move into the bedroom vacated by her mute brother Randall. The lives of both Nina and her brother Mack have been profoundly affected by Randall, and they enact their grief in the space of their mute brother's former bedroom. High on marijuana, together they tear down Nina's new "feminine" wallpaper as Mack chants, "Do this in remembrance of me." David sees only destruction in their act, whereas they see it as their "only meaningful ceremony of good bye" to Randall (307). Despite David's psychiatric training, he does not recognize his children's need to ritualize their grief for Randall; in fact, David defines their relationship in Freudian terms, as like " a little romance" (301).4 In a sense, the family has only "papered over" their grief, covering Randall's wall-markings with a paper deemed suitable for a girl.

At this same time, however, the adolescent Nina had been trying on new identities, including her identity as a sexual object. Experimenting with her mother's lipsticks, for example, she looked at herself in her dressing room mirror but then "picked up her camera and lifted it to her face, looking through the view finder into the glass at the hidden girl looking back at her from behind her camera" (296). Moments later, when her brother Mack, who is home from college, stopped at the door, asking, "Your room now'?" she nodded in assent. "Some transformation," he added (296). But what exactly is the transformation? Trying on her mother's lipstick, "She felt transformed, sexual" (305), but she did not want to become like her mother. At the same time, Nina does want to become an adult, though her brother, some thing of a Holden Caufield, values her for the innocence that he himself has somehow lost. In fact, only Randall can truly remain innocent. Nina wants to lose her innocence, but she resists playing the woman's part, which is why, seeing herself reflected in the mirror, she picked up her camera. Whereas the mirror reflects her feminine position as an object of male desire, the phallic camera allows her to define herself as a desiring subject. In other words, Nina resists becoming an object, refusing to be victimized by the male gaze, the position her mother occupies in her father's journal.

Nevertheless, Nina's desire for subjectivity is soon complicated by her first love affair, In this romantic drama she plays the traditional female role. Nina is still in high school when she lands a part in Miller's The Crucible when she meets Philip Olson, a university student who is the play's producer. Significantly, in this male written and produced script, Nina does not speak. Instead, as one of the hysterical girls, she only screams. By aggressively pursuing the play's director, Nina may have been trying to reverse these gender positions; however, like the heroine of a traditional romance, she idealizes Philip, perhaps because she sees him as the artist she wishes to become herself. This romantic fantasy ends when Nina, fearing she is pregnant, runs away from home. With the arrival of her menstrual period, she feels as if Philip's "power were in the waste blood flowing so slowly out of her body," at which "she felt a sad and emptied sense of freedom, a reluctant joy at being returned to her solitary self" (421). Afterward, Nina begins to see a psychiatrist, a woman who helps her to understand her need to seek out a certain kind of man in order to recreate the constant state of drama, or heightened tension, that has characterized her family life. In the safety of this psychiatric space, Nina also learns to define her "singularity" with her camera, rather than in disastrous love affairs.

However, only after her own marriage to a stable man, who is nevertheless relieved at Nina's miscarriage, does she become aware that she has used her art to distance herself from her mother and sisters. After reading her father's journal, she recognizes it as an analogue to her camera, which has allowed her to objectify others and to imagine herself as above and outside the domestic space of the family, the space which had contained her mother for so many years. This insight into her own devaluation of her mother's life marks the point at which Nina begins to seek affiliation with her mother and sisters. This change is apparent, for example, when she asks her pregnant sister Mary, who is also a doctor, to pose nude. Mary agrees to be photographed, but she jests, "You know, Nina, I think maybe we need to sit down together while I explain to you the function of repression in human life," to which Nina replies that she takes pictures to have "my little victory over all those Freudian processes" (484). This response suggests that Nina has reconciled herself with a Freud whose eyes are neither piercing nor puzzled, but rather with the Freud who, as Mary reminds hers, regarded art as a way "maybe not to escape neurosis but to make use of it, or transform it some how" (484).

Nina is still puzzled over her place in this family puzzle when, near the end of the novel, she is hired to take professional photographs at a large family reunion. Wearing several cameras around her neck as "sort of armor against intimacy" (490), she snaps the obligatory group photo, this one in the shape of "a widening triangle, with the grandparents at its peak, the immediate children on the first step down" and so on, until "at last, one tiny member of the last generation crawled forward and sat back as though to look with amazement on all the other generations that had labored and suffered and loved to produce him" (490-91). At this moment, which mirrors the narrative strategy of the novel itself, Nina-as-subject stands outside the frame of this family's photo, but she also imagines herself as object, as the child who sits inside the frame, looking with amazement at his family. Nina tacks this photograph to the wall beside her photos of her pregnant sister Mary until, finally, the mystery of her relationship to her own family is solved. Newly married and pregnant again herself, she looks at the photographs which, together, with their depiction of the individual and the family, explain why she ends her narrative with the scene of her parents' love-making just prior to Randall's birth. Nina has come to view sex as her mother does, as holy, as part of the life force that creates both new generations and works of art. Acknowledging that other members of her family might put the puzzle together differently, Nina decides that "the family held the answer. That it was really a portrait of a kind of reckless courage, a testament to the great loving carelessness a the heart of every family's life, even ours" (492).


End Notes

1. Hirsch further explains that, according to Freud, the family romance is "an imaginary interrogation of origins, an interrogation which embeds the engenderment of narrative within the experience of family. Through fantasy, the developing individual liberates himself from the constraints of family by imagining himself to be an orphan or a 'bastard' and his 'real' parents to be more noble than the 'foster' family in which he is growing up. The essence of the Freudian family romance is the imaginative act of replacing the parent (for boys clearly the father) wit another, superior figure" (9).

2. Miller assumes that readers will be familiar with Bettelheim's argument that the "refrigerator mother," whose love for her child is coldly ambivalent, causes the child's muteness, an illness that only psychiatry can cure. See Bettelheim's The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self (New York Macmillan, 1967); for a refutation of Bettelheim, and an argument that autism is a neurological rather than a psychological problem, see Jane Taylor McDonnell's "Mothering an Autistic Child: Reclaiming the Voice of the Mother" in Narrating Mothers: Theorizing Maternal Subjectivities (Knoxville: U of Tennessee Press, 1991), 58-75.

3. For a full analysis of the maternal in Freud's writings, see Madelon Sprengnether's The Spectral Mother: Freud, Feminism and Psychoanalysis (Ithaca Cornell University Press, 1990).

4. Invariably, David has trouble reading and understanding "feminine" feelings; he seems as obtuse as the patronizing husband, a medical doctor, in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper." For example, when Lainey papered Randall's room, David greeted her domestic improvement with the ironic comment, "'If wallpaper could cure this family, we'd certainly all be in great shape"' (277), trivializing Lainey's attempt to manage her grief.


Works Cited

Bakhtin, Mikhail M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Trans.Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas Press, 1983.

Benjamin, Jessica. The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination. New York: Pantheon, 1988.

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self. New York: Macmillan, 1967.

Daly, Brenda O. and Maureen T. Reddy, eds. Narrating Mothers. Theorizing Maternal Subjectivities. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991.

Hirsch, Marianne. The Mother/Daughter Plot: Narrative Psychoanalysis, Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

McDonnell, Jane Taylor. "Mothering an Autistic Child: Reclaiming the Voice of the Mother." Narrating Mothers: Theorizing Maternal Subjectivities. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991. 58

Miller, Sue. Family Pictures. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.

Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York: Norton, 1976.

Smiley, Jane. "Someone's in the Kitchen with Freud." Rev. of Family Pictures. New York Times Review of Books. 22 April 1990. 1+.

Sprengnether, Madelon. The Spectral Mother: Freud, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.

BRENDA DALY, Associate Professor of English and Women's Studies, Iowa State University, teaches courses in English methods and women's literature. She is currently writing a book called Changing Lives: Father-Daughter Incest in Twentieth-Century Narratives. She has co-edited the collection, Narrating Mothers: Theorizing Maternal Subjectivities (1991).

Copyright 1995, The Women in Literature and Life Assembly (WILLA) of the National Council of Teachers of English (ISSN #1065-9080). Permission is granted to copy any article provided credit is given and the copies are not intended for resale.

Reference Citation: Daly, Brenda. (1992). The transformational rhetoric of photography in Sue Miller's Family Pictures. WILLA, Volume I, 20-24.


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