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Kubie, L.S. (1937). The Fantasy of Dirt. Psychoanal Q., 6:388-425.

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(1937). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 6:388-425

The Fantasy of Dirt

Lawrence S. Kubie Author Information

Introduction

In the course of this paper it will seem at times as though an attempt were being made to claim that there is no such thing as dirt. Such is not our purpose or meaning; but rather to describe the complex system of fantasies which lurk behind the reality of dirt and which manifest themselves both in the structure of the neurosis and in many significant aspects of adult human life. Nevertheless it is true that we acknowledge no 'innate' or inherent distinctions between clean and dirty, whether on the basis of consistency, color, form, smell, utility, waste, or any combinations of these. Instead, the concept of dirt is looked upon throughout rather as the outcome of an emotional judgment which is imposed by the environment upon the ego of the developing infant. Furthermore it is found to be infested with a surprising array of conflicting and fantastic implications. It should hardly be necessary to state explicitly what ought to be obvious, namely, that in the concept of dirt there is a nucleus of pragmatic reality; but that because of the unconscious distortions and elaborations of the concept the imaginary components play a far more significant rôle in daily life than does this realistic kernel. Therefore it is justifiable to emphasize this aspect of the problem by writing of the fantasy rather than of the reality of dirt.

It is generally understood that the unconscious fantasies which cluster about any reality may have more significance than does the reality itself, but it seems that psychoanalysis has

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Read in part before the New York Psychoanalytic Society, March 30, 1937, and before the American Psychoanalytic Association at Pittsburgh, May, 1937.

1 The reactions of lower animals, primates, and of the infants of different primitive peoples are relevant to this point: but a discussion of these, insofar as the data are available, will have to be reserved for another communication.

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