Lacanian Trauma & Tuché in Paul Auster’s Man in the Dark

Mahsa Khazaei, Farid Parvaneh


This paper seeks to examine Paul Auster’s Man in the Dark (2008) in the light of Jacques Lacan’s theory of fragmented subjectivity. This literary piece had already been introduced as a text prone to be read as a manifestation of conventional meaning of “trauma” for which narration had a therapeutic effect. A Lacanian reading for “trauma,” however, has not received decent attention by critics. By exploring Man in the Dark through Lacanian idea of fragmented subjectivity, this paper presents that the “trauma” for Brill is for no nostalgic return of the past. It also does not refer to one specific event which means that language helps it in no way to be subjugated. Rather, by scrutinizing Brill’s storytelling, the present paper portrays that his trauma ties in with Lacanian notion of “tuché” as the impossible encounter with the missed real, which by “automaton” or “repetition,” that is the network or return of signifiers, cannot be mastered.  Therefore, this analysis inevitably leads to the insufficiency of the idea that storytelling (narration) of the self or in Lacanian terms “objet petit a” can ever fill the “ontological lack” or the cause of “desire.” Furthermore, by parallelizing these Lacanian key terms to the aforementioned literary piece, the present paper argues how the “automaton” of Brill’s fragmented subjectivity in this novella proves to be contributing to his encounter with the missed real.



Trauma, Ontological Lack, Desire, Signifier, Automaton, Repetition, Tuché

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