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Richards, A.A. (1992). Unconscious Fantasy: An Introduction to the Work of Jacob A. Arlow, M.D., and to the Symposium in His Honor. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 1(4):505-511.

(1992). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 1(4):505-511

Unconscious Fantasy: An Introduction to the Work of Jacob A. Arlow, M.D., and to the Symposium in His Honor

Arnold A. Richards, M.D.

The notion of unconscious fantasy is central to psychoanalysis in the 1990s. The contributors to this issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis will be clarifying the degree to which this notion is grounded in Freud's pioneering work; and they will be clarifying, in turn, the ways in which this notion has evolved, both theoretically and clinically, in the half-century following his death. Since the New York Psychoanalytic Society's 1991 symposium, “The Clinical Value of the Concept of Unconscious Fantasy,” was the occasion for these papers, it is fitting that we begin the issue by reviewing the contributions of Jacob Arlow, who was honored at the symposium. For it is Arlow who has placed the understanding and interpretation of unconscious fantasies at the heart of the psychoanalytic endeavor, and his work significantly informs the contributions to follow.

For me, Jack Arlow is the Richard Feynman of psychoanalysis. Like the brilliant theoretical physicist acclaimed for his ability to solve the problems of engineers and applied scientists (his demonstrating the cause of the failure of the space shuttle Challenger's O rings is a recent example), Arlow is the analyst called on by colleagues and candidates when an analysis is intractible or when efforts at clinical formulations have left lesser heads spinning. His confident ease in approaching problems rests on an utter mastery of psychoanalytic theory and method, though to the undiscerning this mastery may be obscured by his consistent use of jargon-free and experience-near terminology.

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