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objet a

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In Jacques Lacan's psychoanalysis, the object of desire that can never be obtained. It has a range of meanings in Lacan's work, but the most consistent and widely recognized understanding of it is that it is that which desire lacks in perpetuity and is therefore that which causes desire. In later formulations, Lacan came to think of it as the surplus value of enjoyment (jouissance). Lacan always insisted that the term remain untranslated so as to give it an algebraic status in English, and for the most part this is respected. Literally, it might be rendered as the ‘object (little) a’, but this is still not completely right since the ‘a’ stands for autre (other), so strictly speaking it should be the ‘object (little) o’.

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