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Laplanche, J. Pontalis, J.B. (1968). Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:1-18.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:1-18

Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality

Jean Laplanche and J. B. Pontalis


1. The status of fantasy cannot be found within the framework of the opposition reality-illusion (imaginary). The notion of psychical reality introduces a third category, that of structure.

2. Freud's theory of seduction (1895–97) is re-examined from the point of view of its pioneering and demonstrative value: it permits the analysis of the dialectic relationship between fantasy productions, the underlying structures, and the reality of the scene. This "reality" is to be sought in an ever more remote or hypothetical past (of the individual or of the species), which is postulated on the horizon of the imaginary, and implied in the very structure of the fantasy.

3. Freud's so-called abandonment of the reality of infantile traumatic memories, in favour of fantasies which would be based only on a biological, quasi-endogenous evolution of sexuality, is only a transitional stage in the search for the foundation of neurosis. On the one hand seduction will continue to appear as one of the data of the relationship between child and adult (Freud, Ferenczi); on the other hand, the notion of primal (or original) fantasies (Urphantasien), of "inherited memory traces" of prehistoric events, will in turn provide support for individual fantasies.

The authors propose an interpretation of this notion: such a pre-history, located by Freud in phylogenesis, can be understood as a prestructure which is actualized and transmitted by the parental fantasies.

4. Original fantasies are limited in their thematic scope. They relate to problems of origin which present themselves to all human beings (Menschenkinder): the origin of the individual (primal scene), the origin of sexuality (seduction), and the origin of the difference between the sexes (castration).

5. The origin of fantasy cannot be isolated from the origin of the drive (Trieb) iself. The authors, reinterpreting the Freudian concept of the experience of satisfaction, locate this origin in the auto-erotism, which they define not as a stage of evolution but as the moment of a repeated disjunction of sexual desire and non-sexual functions: sexuality is detached from any natural object, and is handed over to fantasy, and, by this very fact, starts existing as sexuality.

6. The metapsychological status of this mixed entity, the fantasy, is finally established. The authors refuse to accept the main line of separation between conscious and unconscious fantasies (Isaacs). They place this division between the original and the secondary fantasies (whether repressed or conscious) and demonstrate the relationship and the profound continuity between the various fantasy scenarios—the stage-setting of desire—ranging from the daydream to the fantasies recovered or reconstructed by analytic investigation.

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