Fragmented selves: A Lacanian Reading of Auster’s The New York Trilogy Abstract:
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 of the subject to the symbolic order. Paul Auster, is a famous American postmodern writer whose The New York Trilogy is the story of fragmentation and unknowable selves, it is also a desperate attempt to yoke these selves into a unity through language. The form of the three interwoven stories, City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room which culminates into a trilogy under the name of New York, is a tableau which shows the fear of the loss of identity within a megalopolis. The subjects in the novel are shown in their inessential nature, fluid and without sticking to any specific place, fading into the signifying chain. The identities merge and the borders between self and the other are marred in the unconscious of the characters. The aim of the present study is to apply Lacan’s theory of Self and Other and the notion of Identity to Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy. Key words: Lacan, The New York Trilogy, fragmented selves, identity.
An Introduction to Lacan’s Theory
Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) was the famous French psychoanalyst who made a great contribution to both psychology and linguistics by proposing that unconscious is structured like language. He followed Freud’s psychoanalysis and related it to Saussure’s structuralism. According to him: The analyzable symptom, whether it be normal or pathological, is distinguished not only from the diagnostic index but also from any imaginable form of pure expressivity in that it is supported by a structure which is identical to the structure of language. And by that I do not mean a structure to be situated in some sort of so-called generalized semiology drawn from the limbo of its periphery, but the structure of language as it manifests itself in the languages which I might call positive, those which are actually spoken by the mass of human beings (Lacan 40). This assumption led to the idea that no one is complete since each one’s psyche has stored only a part of language which would be meaningful only in relation with the other parts and the whole system in general. According to this, each person is fragmented. Lacan divided the mind into three phases, imaginary, the symbolic and the real. The development of Mind according to Lacan
Imaginary order begins from the time of our birth and continues up to six months. The reason for calling this phase, imaginary is that it is filled with images. It is the time of boundlessness. The infant who cannot speak does not even need language because its desires are immediately fulfilled since it is the time of union with mother. The baby finds its mother as the continuation of its own body, so there is no differentiation between you and me, the child and the world around it. An imaginary harmony and oneness exists between the child and the world around it. From the age of 6 months to 18 months, the mirror stage happens when the child sees its separation from the world as it looks in the mirror or drops something from its hands or listens to his or her own voice. Lacan calls them “object petit a” (Bressler 153). After this short time before entering to the realm of language, the child enters the second order which Lacan calls it symbolic and which is dominated by the rule of...
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