Student of English Department

Topics: Detective fiction, Paul Auster, Edgar Allan Poe Pages: 48 (19479 words) Published: April 19, 2013
Faculty of Arts

Department of English and American Studies

English Language and Literature

Bc. Hana Lyčková

The Problem of Identity in Writing by Paul Auster

Master’s Diploma Thesis

Supervisor: Stephen Paul Hardy, Ph.D.


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.

Author’s signature


I would like to give my special thanks to Jens Fredslund from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, whose seminars on the twentieth-century American fiction inspired me to write my thesis on Paul Auster. Especially, I want to thank my supervisor Stephen Paul Hardy, Ph. D. for his help, support, valuable hints, and the loan of The Invention of Solitude.

Table of Contents

1.Literary Influence on Auster’s Writing10
2.Writing by Paul Auster as Related to Identity17
2.1.Autobiographical Features in Auster’s Writing20
3.The Question of Identity in The Invention of Solitude23
3.1.Portrait of an Invisible Man23
3.2.The Book of Memory26
4.The New York Trilogy29
4.1.City of Glass29
4.3.The Locked Room38
5.Travels in the Scriptorium46
Czech Résumé59
English Résumé62


The present Master’s Diploma Thesis deals with various aspects of identity as they are depicted in three works written by a contemporary American author Paul Auster. He was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1947, started writing poetry and other minor pieces in 1970s, but he did not get the credit in the literary world until the publication of his first non-fiction The Invention of Solitude in 1982. Since 1980s he has continued writing novels that number fifteen volumes up to the present day and which deal predominantly with the search for identity and personal meaning. The aim of the thesis is to analyze three Auster’s works: The Invention of Solitude (1982), New York Trilogy (1985) and Travels in the Scriptorium (2007) with the focus on the issue of identity. The thesis will concentrate mainly on the protagonists and examine their behaviour, response to the environment either social or physical, their inner life, the process of their search for identity and of identity formation as well, and their relation to the antagonist who often represents their alter ego or double. The thesis is indeed divided into two parts. The first part is rather theoretical and includes the first two chapters; whereas in the second part which presents the main body of the thesis, the most important aspects of identity will be analyzed for each work. The first chapter serves for setting the literary context of Auster’s writing, and it briefly introduces other well-known writers who have strongly influenced Paul Auster’s work, and their fiction that either appears as an intertextual reference in the analyzed works or is closely linked to the issue of identity and other postmodern motives present in Auster’s writing. First, it comments on allegory and meeting of the imaginary and real in Nathaniel Hawthorne and on his tale Wakefield which is retold in Auster’s Ghosts. The Wakefield motif actually reappears in all the analyzed novels, most markedly in The Locked Room in which the protagonist seems to represent Wakefield’s faithful double. Second, it stresses the influence of E.A. Poe’s detective-fiction and mystery genre which is most clearly demonstrated in The New York Trilogy, sometimes marked anti-detective novel. It also sums up Poe’s allegorical tale William Wilson which is closely linked to double identities of Auster’s characters. And his Man of the Crowd points at an individual lost in the flock of anonymous human bodies, a postmodern...

Bibliography: ---. Ghosts. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.
---. Moon Palace. New York: Penguin Books, 1989.
---. The Book of Illusions. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2002.
---. The Brooklyn Follies. London: Faber, 2005.
---. The Invention of Solitude. London: Faber, 2005.
---. “The Locked Room.” The New York Trilogy. London: Faber, 1988.
---. The Music of Chance. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
---. Travels in the Scriptorium. London: Faber, 2006.
Contat, Michel, and Paul Auster. “The Manuscript in the Book: Conversation.” Yale French Studies 89 (1996): 160-187. JSTOR. Library of the Masaryk University, Brno. 18 May 2008 .
Elliott, Emory, ed. Columbia Literary History of the United States. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
Foucault, Michel. “What Is an Author?” The Essential Foucault. New York: The New Press, 2003. 239-253.
Holzapfel, Anne M. The New York Trilogy: Whodunit?: Tracking the Structure of Paul Auster’s Anti-Detective Novels. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1996.
Joseph, John E. Language and Identity: National, Ethnic, Religious. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Leary, Mark R., and June Price Tangney, eds. Handbook of Self and Identity. New York: Guilford Press, 2005.
Lucy, Niall. Postmodern Literary Theory: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.
McHale, Brian. Postmodernist Fiction. London: Routledge, 1987.
Melville, Herman. Bartleby, the Scrivener. Hoboken, N.J.: Melville House Publishing, 2004.
Poe, E.A. “William Wilson.” Complete Tales and Poems. Ljubljana: Mladinska Knjiga, 1966. 564-78.
Sarup, Madan. An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism. Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993.
Sorapure, Madeleine. “The Detective and the Author.” Barone, Dennis, ed. Beyond the Red Notebook: Essays on Paul Auster. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995.
Teodoro, José. “Parallel Worlds: In the Scriptorium with Paul Auster.” Stop Smiling Online. 23 Mar. 2009. Stop Smiling Media, LLC. 15 Oct. 2009. .
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