On Writer’s Block: The Reflection of Lacanian Post-Structuralist Psychoanalysis in Paul Auster’s Oracle Night

Open access


This paper deals with the reflection of Lacanian post-structuralist psychoanalysis in Paul Auster’s novel Oracle Night, with respect to the phenomenon of writer’s block. The paper argues that Auster’s novel is remarkably synchronized with the theoretical perspectives proposed by the noted psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, as the root of his protagonist’s inability to write is linked to the medium of written discourse, and the obstacles which the protagonist of his story faces are thus put within the confines of the protagonist’s psyche. Writer’s block is thus being examined with respect to the Lacanian concept known as the chain of signification, as it is much more noticeable in writers because their primary conduit for describing the exterior and interior world is discourse in its written form. Auster exceptionally mirrors Lacan’s view of a writer’s psyche and vividly explores the foundation of the inability to write with respect to the symbolic realm of human experience.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Auster Paul. Oracle Night. London: Faber and Faber Limited 2004. Print.

  • Auster Paul. Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure. London: Faber and Faber 1997. Print.

  • Derrida Jacques. “Structure Sign and Play in the Human Sciences.” Twentieth Century Literary Theory. Ed. Vassilis Lambropoulos and David Neal Miller. New York: State University of New York Press 1987. Print.

  • Freud Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. Eastford: Martino Fine Books 2010. Print.

  • Freud Sigmund. The Origins of Psycho-Analysis: Letters to Wilhelm Fliess Drafts and Notes: 1887–1902 Ed. Marie Bonaparte Anna Freud Ernst Kris. New York: State University of New York Press 1987. Print.

  • Hall Caroline. Getting Down to Writing: A Students’ Guide to Overcoming Writer’s Block. Norfolk: Peter Francis Publishers. 1994. Print.

  • Herzogenrath Bernd. The Art of Desire. Amsterdam: Rodopi 1999. Print.

  • Lacan Jacques. “The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious.” Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. Ed. Bruce Fink. New York: Norton & Company 2006A. Print.

  • Lacan Jacques. “The Signification of the Phallus.” Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. Ed. Bruce Fink. New York: Norton & Company 2006B. Print.

  • Landman Peta. Writer’s Block and Its Association with Anxiety. 2016. Australian College of Applied Psychology Master’s Thesis. Web. Accessed 10 March 2019. http://www.academia.edu/25786833/Writers_block_and_its_association_with_anxiety

  • Lonka Kirsti Angela Chow Jenni Keskinen Kai Hakkarainen Niclas Sandström & Kirsi Pyhältö. “How to measure PhD students’ conceptions of academic writing?” Journal of Writing Research vol. 5 no. 3. 2014: 245–269. Web. Accessed 10 March 2019. http://www.jowr.org/articles/vol5_3/JoWR_2014_vol5_nr3_Lonka_et_al.pdf

  • Patteson Richard F. “The Teller’s Tale: Text and Paratext in Paul Auster’s Oracle Night.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction vol. 49 no. 2. 2008: 115–130. Print.

  • Peacock James. “Signs of Grace: Paul Auster’s Oracle Night.” English: Journal of the English Association vol. 55 no. 211. 2006: 65–78. Print.

  • Rose Mike. “Writer’s block: The cognitive dimension.” Studies in Writing & Rhetoric. Carbondale IL: Southern Illinois University Press 1984. Web. Accessed 5 March 2019. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED248527

  • Sanders-Reio Joanne Patricia Alexander Thomas G. Reio & Isadore Newman. “Do students’ beliefs about writing relate to their writing self-efficacy apprehension and performance?” Learning and Instruction vol. 11. 2014: 1–11. Web. Accessed 5 March 2019. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2014.02.001

  • Simonsen Rasmus R. “Even or(r) Odd: The Game of Narration in Paul Auster’s Oracle Night.” American Studies in Scandinavia. Ed. Janne Lahti. Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark 2009. Print.

  • Waugh Patricia. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. New York: Routledge 1984. Print.

Journal information
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 51 51 25
PDF Downloads 27 27 16