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The Information icon (an i in a circle) will give you valuable information about PEP Web data and features. You can find it besides a PEP Web feature and the author’s name in every journal article. Simply move the mouse pointer over the icon and click on it for the information to appear.

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Lenormand, M. (2019). The importance of not being Ernest: An archaeology of child’s play in Freud’s writings (and some implications for psychoanalytic theory and practice). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 100(1):52-76.

(2019). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 100(1):52-76

The importance of not being Ernest: An archaeology of child’s play in Freud’s writings (and some implications for psychoanalytic theory and practice)

Marie Lenormand

In psychoanalysis, the question of child’s play owes its fame to child psychoanalysts. Before the emergence of child psychoanalysis, however, Sigmund Freud had evoked the question of child’s play in his works many times. Surprisingly, his views on play remain generally underestimated – with the notable exception of the famous “fort-da” game that, by irresistibly attracting innumerable comments to itself, has come to overshadow, in the author’s view, the whole Freudian conception of play. This paper therefore aims at archeologically re-examining this notion in the Freudian corpus. It intends to show that, far from being limited to an object of study as “interpreted,” play is also called upon for what it offers heuristically as “interpreting,” especially when Freud is faced with metapsychological obstacles. Two main strands of this theoretical conception of play are identified (a “deficit” and a “surplus” conception). The paper then highlights how the Freudian conception of play is intimately linked to his melancholy theory of the psyche and of culture. Finally, the paper changes tack in order to briefly suggest that this reconsideration of play might have psychoanalytic implications on two issues, namely the status of child’s play in analysis and the more general question of interpretation.

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