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Raphael-Leff, J. (2009). The “Dreamer” by Daylight: Imaginative Play, Creativity, and Generative Identity. Psychoanal. St. Child, 64:14-53.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 64:14-53


The “Dreamer” by Daylight: Imaginative Play, Creativity, and Generative Identity

Joan Raphael-Leff, PHD

This paper attempts to answer the question: Why, when most children play imaginatively, do so few go on to become creators’? The author reviews ideas about the interplay between psychic reality, imaginative play, and creativity, elaborated by generations of researchers since Freud first linked these. The transformational process of play is seen to cultivate a multifaceted inner world and greater complexity of the creative capacity. Developmental themes, age-specific preoccupations, and the changing nature of play are considered. The authors original contribution is the concept of “generative identity”—proposing that a young child's self-image is configured through growing distinctions of gender (components of which are redefined as embodiment, representation, desire). Generative identity is further consolidated by negotiating issues of generation (cohort), genesis (origins), generativity (procreation) and “genitive” issues—separateness, arbitrariness, and the irreversibility of birth and death.

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