A Lacanian Analysis of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy
Fragmented selves: A Lacanian Reading of Auster’s The New York Trilogy
The concept of fragmented self was first introduced by Freud through his model of three part psyche, namely ego, id and super-ego, and later modified by Jacque Lacan, the famous postmodern psychoanalyst. The split of subject is one of the most appealing concepts in the postmodern literature.
By assimilating the structure of unconscious to that of language, Lacan bridges between psychoanalysis and linguistics and hence makes a new interdisciplinary field of study. The splitting of self that Freud was considered to be merely psycho-physical is in Lacanian term an alienation that occurs in language. This alienation happens as a consequence of the relation
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In the spite of the mentioned claim of the author, Auster’s stories are apt to different interpretations. His obsession with the loss of identity is so apparent in all the three stories of the Trilogy that Harold Bloom, the famous American literary critic, considers him to be “a lifelong disciple of Franz Kafka” (Bloom 1). Like Kafka he seems to be worried about the loss of identity in the postmodern society. This apprehension is reflected in his Trilogy which begins with its first story City of Glass. The story opens with a mistaken call and the reader gets familiar with Daniel Quinn, who is a detective novelist. By accepting to take the case of Paul Auster, the detective whom the caller is looking for, Quinn, enters the game. After a while he loses his identity that is, it gets divided into three characters, Quinn, the living detective who tries to make sense of the story, William Wilson, a character in one of Poe’s stories, under whose name he is writing detective stories and finally Max Work who is the hero of his novels. The very choice of William Wilson as a pseudo- name is revealing of the similarities between the plots of the two stories. William Wilson a character in one of Poe’s stories with the same name has lost his identity and thinks that he has a double, in his case it is a