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Choang-tsu’s butterfly: objects and the subjective function of fantasy.

Neill, Calum



In the sixth chapter of the Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Lacan refers to the taoist Choang-tsu's well known parable of the dream butterfly. Choang-tsu poses the question of how, after waking from a dream of being a butterfly, he can tell whether he is Choang-tsu who has woken from the dream of being a butterfly or whether he is the butterfly now dreaming he is Choang-tsu. This article argues that Lacan's treatment of the parable allows us to discern two instances of fantasy; the fantasy of being the butterfly and the fantasy of being Choang-tsu. These two instances help to demonstrate the centrality of the process of identification to the function of fantasy and allow us to grasp an ethical dimension entailed in one's subjective relation to the object(s) of fantasy.


Neill, C. (2006). Choang-tsu’s butterfly: objects and the subjective function of fantasy. Gramma: journal of theory and criticism, 14, 61-70

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 1, 2006
Deposit Date Apr 8, 2008
Publicly Available Date Apr 8, 2008
Print ISSN 1106-1170
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Pages 61-70
Keywords Psychoanalysis; Lacan; Choang-tsu; Dream butterfly; Fantasy; Process of identity;
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