Notes on Fantasy


The following are some brief notes of reflection on Freud’s 1908 paper on hysterical phantasy, delivered at a meeting on 16th August 2014:


  1. Speaking very broadly, in the early Lacan, there is an emphasis on desire and its interpretation. Later Lacan focuses on jouissance and knotting. (I have discussed some of this elsewhere). Fantasy is the bridge between them, and is theorised extensively between Seminars 10 to 14. The fantasy contains an element of desire or wish, but in later Lacan, also corresponds to Imaginary consistency, something which holds the world together for a subject. Freud’s insistence on the ‘bisexuality’ of (some) fantasy seems to me to merely suggest that a fantasy can contain multiple points of view.
  2. Fantasy is a formation of the unconscious, and can be interpreted as such, but not necessarily in quite the same way as dreams or parapraxes. Fantasy – especially in th form of worldview or ideology – has a hard time of surviving analysis and interpretation. Both Freud and Lacan are clear on the point that the fantasy precedes the symptom, even though this is the reverse order in which things are addressed in an actual analysis.
  3. There is a question about the nature of fantasy and enjoyment. Certain forms of jouissance – a self-administered addiction, for instance – is held by some analysts to be without fantasy, an example of pure narcissism. We can infer a distinction between a ‘discrete’ fantasy, of the sort discussed by Freud (where fantasy accompanies specific enjoyments, masturbation, etc) and a fundamental fantasy. To clarify – administering substances to oneself for jouissance may not require any discrete fantasy, perhaps, but may nonetheless fit within the coordinates of a fundamental fantasy (eg. of oral jouissance, identification with the ‘addict’, etc).
  4. Lacan significantly extends Freud’s theory of fantasy, in that ‘reality’ itself is fantasmatic (that is, consists by way of the imaginary). Again, this is somewhat different to Freud’s notion of discrete fantasies for specific wishes and enjoyments. Fundamental fantasy constitutes the coordinates within which a subject can manoeuvre. These are the unspoken assumptions that allow ‘reality’ to cohere.
  5. Following Freud’s logic, fantasy is diagnostic. The fantasy/delusion distinction allows one to differentiate between neurosis and psychosis. (Lacan’s work on fantasy also allows for a structural distinction regarding perversion, as evidence in Seminar 14, for instance). Beyond structure, however, an analysis of fantasy can show one’s trajectory within a set of subjective coordinates. To analyse things in this fashion is to move from general diagnostic categories to what is absolutely particular to a given subject.
  6. Fantasy – especially of a sexual nature – can be understood in terms of the later Lacan as that which covers over the lack of sexual rapport. By situating the subject relative to objet petit a, fantasy gives the subject an entry point into sexual enjoyment in the face of radical non-rapport. Or, to put it differently, if a subject could not derive enjoyment from a masturbatory fantasy, they may find it nearly impossible to obtain enjoyment from sex with a partner also. This is a Lacanian rather than a Freudian position.
  7. The failure of the fundamental fantasy – whether this is in the form of incompleteness, or inconsistency – is one of the causes of anxiety. When the imaginary and symbolic is ripped away, one is left with the gaping maw of the real. Specific, ‘discrete’ fantasies tend also to be accompanied by anxiety. It is generally easier for somebody to disclose their sexual acts than their sexual fantasies, since it is the latter which carry more subjective implication.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s