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Isaacs, S. (1948). The Nature and Function of Phantasy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 29:73-97.

(1948). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 29:73-97

The Nature and Function of Phantasy

Susan Isaacs


A survey of contributions to psycho-analytic theory would show that the term 'phantasy' has been used in varying senses at different times and by different authors. Its current usages have widened considerably from its earliest meanings.

Much of this widening of the concept has so far been left implicit. The time is ripe to consider the meaning and definition of the term more explicitly.

When the meaning of a technical term does become extended in this way, whether deliberately or insensibly, it is usually for a good reason—because the facts and the theoretical formulations they necessitate require it. It is the relationships between the facts which need to be looked at more closely and clarified in our thoughts. This paper is mostly concerned with the definition of 'phantasy'; that is to say, with describing the series of facts which the use of the term helps us to identify, to organize and to relate to other significant series of facts.

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