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of the impossibility of doing so amounts to shifting S1 entirely over to the field of the Other. What is left is the empty place S1 previously occupied at the intersection of the subject and the Other. This place was marked above by the phallus qua signifier. But Lacan now conceives the place of the intersection as the overlap of two lacks, a point which coincides with the lack in the subject and the lack in the other. This conception breaks away from set theory which treats elements of intersections as belonging to both circles. In contrast, Lacan considers it a negative intersection such that the nonsensical object a which embodies it belongs to neither the subject nor the Other. This quintessential Lacanian object is the previously identified sublime object. It is ‘[t]hrough the function of the objet a [that] the subject separates himself off [and] ceases to be linked to the vacillation of being, in the sense that it forms the essence of alienation.’43 At the phenomenological level, the alienated subject cannot but meaningfully vacillate with its being, while the separated subject gains an ‘empty’ distance towards this meaningful existence precisely by identifying with this object which embodies the jouissance that supports the experience of alienation. At the theoretical level, this is ‘the object that cannot be swallowed, as it were, which remains stuck in the gullet of the signifier.’44 And in terms of methodology, the proper strategy is to aim for this object. As Lacan says, ‘the effect of interpretation is to isolate in the subject a kernel, a kern, to use Freud’s own term, of non-sense.’45

Also called the object-cause, the objet a is what accounts for the real Cause which disturbs the signifiers of the symbolic order. Moreover, Lacan considers this object the objectal correlate to a subject that only exists in the differential signifying system as a pure difference, as per his often repeated tautological definition of the signifier as ‘that which represents a subject for another signifier.’46 These truths are recognizable together at the point where the subject ‘sees himself caused as a lack by a, and where a fills the gap constituted by the inaugural division of the subject.’47 This is a traumatic experience for the subject. By encountering objet a, the subject discovers that the Cause of meaning has something to do with its very own subjectivity. However, for the theorist with no such experience, these claims remain rather speculative.

Correlative to his belief that one acquires the agility needed to interpret the unconscious by working through ciphered matrices, Lacan increasingly advises taking up topological figures to expose the logic of the real. In Seminar XI a favored figure is often invoked – the möbius strip – which illustrates the existence of a structure whose limit separating its inside from its outside

43 Ibid., 258.
44 Ibid., 270.
45 Ibid., 250.
46 Ibid., 207.
47 Ibid., 270.

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