Objet petit a
This term has sometimes been translated into English as 'object (little) a', but Lacan insisted that it should remain untranslated, "thus acquiring, as it were, the status of an algebraic sign."
It is always lower case and italicized to show that it denotes the little other, in opposition to the capital 'A' of the big Other.
Unlike the big Other, which represents a radical and irreducible alterity, the little other is "the other which isn't another at all, since it is essentially coupled with the ego, in a relationship which is always reflexive, interchangeable."
Lacan now begins to distinguish between a, the object of desire, and the specular image, which he now symbolizes i(a).
In the seminar of 1960-1, Lacan articulates the objet petit a with the term agalma (a greek term meaning glory, an orgnament, an offering ot the gods, or a little statue of a god) which he extracts from Plato's Symposium.
Just as the agalma is a precious object hidden inside a relatively worthless box, so the objet petit a is the object of desire which we seek in the other.
From this point on, a denotes the object which can never be attained, which is really the cause of desire rather than that towards which desire tends; this is why Lacan now calls it "the object-cause" of desire.
The drives do not seek to attain the objet petit a, but rather circle round it.
It plays an increasingly important part in Lacan's concept of the treatment, in which the analyst must siutate himself as the semblance of objet petit a, the cause of the analysand's desire.
This is developed furhter in the seminar of 1969-70, in which Lacan elaborates his formulae of the four discoruses.
In the discourse of the master, one signifier attempts to represent the subject for all other signifiers, but inevitably a surplus is always produced; this surplus is objet petit a, a surplus meaning, and a surplus enjoyment (Fr. plus-de-jouir).
- Sheridan. 1977
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p.321
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.177
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p.77
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p.179
- Lacan. 1962-3. Seminar of 16 January 1963.
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p.87