Some thoughts on teaching about Lacan's Object (petit) a

One of the books I use in a class I'm teaching this semester is The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz. Today, I will be covering the cases in part IV of the book, which is about changing. As I was preparing, I re-read the chapters. Every time I do this, something new stands out to me. On this reading in the chapter titled On Losing a Wallet, the following text stood out:

Grosz recounts how author William Styron won the prestigious Prix mondial Cino Del Duca, and how this success caused Sryron significant psychological discomfort. Grosz comments:

[T]here are many men and women who work hard to attain a goal, achieve success, and then suddenly, cataclysmically, fall apart. What are the unconscious forces that cause us to sabotage ourselves – sometimes in even the tiniest of ways – when we’ve achieved a success? (p. 133)

As I read this time around, I thought about how this might be a good way to teach students about the Lacanian concept of object a (No Subject, Wikipedia).

This concept changed a great deal throughout Lacan's teaching, but I feel confident presenting a few of the ways Lacan thought about it.

  • The object of desire (1957 – $<>a)
  • The object cause of desire (1963 – When it gets a bit real)
  • The object of the drive (Also 1963... I think)
  • The position of the analyst (1969 – The analyst's discourse)
  • As a semblance (1973 – The semblance of being)
  • As the knot (1974 – In the Borromean knot)

This is not exhaustive... and I'm not even sure I can pull off teaching this sort of a progression, but I intend to give it a go and see what happens.

Subscribe to [S][J][P]

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.