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fort/da


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Sigmund Freud's name for a game played by his 18-month-old grandson involving a cotton reel which the boy would repeatedly throw out of his cot, exclaiming ‘Oo’ as he did so, forcing his mother to retrieve it for him, at which he would utter an appreciative ‘Ah’. Freud interpreted these noises as babyish approximations of ‘fort’, meaning ‘gone’, and ‘da’, meaning ‘there’. The significance of the game, which Freud discusses in ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920), is that it shows the child transforming an unhappy situation, one in which they have no control over the presence of their parents, into a happy one in which the parents are at the beck and call of the child. Freud also interpreted it as a kind of revenge on the parents, a way of saying to them that they aren't so important. See also compulsion to repeat.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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