The hidden treasure that turns an ordinary thing into a radiant prize

From Lacan’s Concept of the Object-Cause of Desire:

This brings us to a key aspect of objet petit a . This virtual “object” is the je ne sais quoi or the “I don’t know what” that makes a certain object or person become unexplainably special, that is, objet a is the x-factor or the it-factor, the indefinable quality or elusive detail that makes something distinctive, sublime or attractive. You know there’s something special about the person, but you never can quite put your finger on what exactly it is about them that does so. The objet a is the hidden treasure or agalma (a term Lacan borrowed from Plato’s Symposium) that turns an ordinary thing into a radiant prize. This can work in different ways. Sometimes, the other person is positioned as objet a (agalma), but at other times, you are in this position so as to imagine yourself as deserving of the other person’s desire. Žižek writes, “In late Lacan, on the contrary, the focus shifts to the object that the subject itself ‘is’, to the agalma, secret treasure, which guarantees a minimum of phantasmic consistency to the subject’s being. That is to say: objet petit a, as the object of fantasy, is that ‘something in me more than myself on account of which I perceive myself as ‘worthy of the Other’s desire’” (The Plague of Fantasies, p. 9).

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