Reading list: Unconscious phantasy

Key papers by Freud

1911 ‘Formulations on the two principles of mental functioning’. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 12. Hogarth Press (1958). Phantasy functions according to the pleasure principle, equating ‘reality of thought with external actuality, and wishes with their fulfilment’ (p.225). Phantasies are likely to arise when instinctual wishes are frustrated.

1916-17 ‘The paths to the formation of symptoms’, Lecture 23 of Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 16. Hogarth Press (1963). Sources of ‘primal phantasies’ (primal scene, seduction by adults, castration) lie in instincts and are part of innate, phylogenetic endowment. Phantasy as physical reality.

Key papers by Klein

For full references for Melanie Klein’s works see Melanie Klein’s publications.

Klein does not define phantasy, but stress on it is evident throughout her work with both children and adults.

1921 ‘The development of a child’. Vivid description of a child’s unconscious phantasies accompanying his reality-based activities.

1936 ‘Weaning’. Klein’s belief that analysis shows phantasies are in the mind of an infant ‘almost from birth’.

1952 ‘Observations on the behaviour of young infants’. Unconscious knowledge of the breast exists at birth and in phylogenetic inheritance (p. 117).

Key papers by other authors

1948 Isaacs, S. ‘On the nature and function of phantasy’, International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 29: 73-97; republished in M. Klein, P. Heimann, S. Isaacs and J. Riviere (eds.) Developments in Psychoanalysis. Hogarth Press (1952). Unconscious phantasy defined as the ‘mental corollary, the unconscious mental processes’ and described as defence against anxiety.

1962 Bion, W. Learning from Experience. Heinemann. Assumes that individuals are born capable of ‘preconceptions’ that, if ‘realised’ in experience, may give rise to ‘conceptions’.

1991 Hinshelwood, R. D. A Dictionary of Kleinian Thought, 2nd edition. Free Association Books. Emphasis on Klein’s findings that phantasies may accompany ‘realistic’ activities. Unconscious phantasies tacitly express the belief that bodily sensations are caused by internal mental objects. Detailed discussion of unconscious phantasy in Controversial Discussions, 1941-1945.

Further exploration

Britton, R. (1995) ‘Reality and unreality in phantasy and fiction’, in E. Spector Person, P. Fonagy and S Figueira (eds.) On Freud’s ‘Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming’. London: Yale University Press, pp. 82-106.

King, P. and Steiner, R. (1991) The Freud-Klein Controversies, 1941-45. London: Tavistock/Routledge.

Laplanche, J. and Pontalis, J.-R. (1968) ‘Fantasy and the origins of sexuality’. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 49: 1-18.

Money-Kyrle, R. (1956) ‘The world of the unconscious and the world of common sense’. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. 7. Also in D. Melzter and E. O’Shaughnessey (eds.) The Collected Papers of Roger Money-Kyrle. Strath Tay: Clunie Press (1978), pp. 318-329.

Perelberg, R. (2005) ‘Unconscious phantasy and après-coup: “From the History of an Infantile Neurosis” (the Wolf Man)’, in R. Perelberg (ed.) Freud: A Modern Reader. London: Whurr Publishers, pp. 206-223.

Perelberg, R. (2006) ‘The Controversial Discussions and après-coup’. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 87: 1199-1220.

Perron, R. (2001) ‘The unconscious and primal phantasies’. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 82: 583-595.

Sandler, J. and Sandler, A.-M. (1994) ‘Phantasy and its transformations: A contemporary Freudian view’. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 75: 387-394. Also in R. Steiner (ed.) Unconscious Phantasy. London: Karnac (2003), pp. 77-88.

Sandler, J., Holder, A., Dare, C and Dreher, U. (1997) Freud’s Models of the Mind. London: Karnac.

Segal, H. (1964a) Introduction to the Work of Melanie Klein. London: Heinemann.

Segal, H. (1964b) ‘Symposium on phantasy – “Fantasy and other mental processes”’. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 45: 191-194.

Segal, H. (1991) ‘Phantasy’, in Dream, Phantasy and Art. London: Routledge, pp. 16-30.

Segal, H. (1994) ‘Phantasy and reality’, International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 75: 395-401.

Spillius, E. (2001) ‘Freud and Klein on the concept of phantasy’. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 82: 361-373.

Spillius, E. (2007) ‘Freud and Klein on the concept of phantasy’, in E. Spillius, P. Roth and R. Rusbridger (eds.) Encounters with Melanie Klein. London: Routledge, pp. 163-182.

Steiner, J. (1993) Psychic Retreats: Organizations in Psychotic, Neurotic and Borderline Patients. London: Routledge.

Steiner, R. (2003) ‘Introduction’ in R. Steiner (ed.) Unconscious Phantasy. London: Karnac, pp. 1-66.

Strachey, J. (1996) ‘Notes on some technical terms whose translation calls for comment’. S. E. 1. London: Hogarth Press, p. xxiiv.