Stringing ‘The Figure in the Carpet’: Seven Readings, Seven Critical Plots



In what follows I will discuss seven readings of ‘The Figure in the Carpet’ developed by the members of my critical theory seminar. Six of these papers appeared in the Draftings in Reader-Oriented Criticism issue (DIROC). My own analysis, presented midway through this seminar, but fully articulated only in this chapter, is added here in order to represent more accurately my own obtrusive presence in this community of readers. Three other papers were left out from the Draftings collection because they remained at an incipient level of critical articulation. From the theoretical perspective adopted in this seminar, emphasising the interactional, open-ended process of critical writing,1 this did not meant that they were not ‘finished’, but rather that they did not pursue the interaction with James’s story and other readings far enough, did not foreground their own configurational process sufficiently. The primary purpose of this seminar, and of the publication venture that followed it, was to provide ample opportunity for the articulation of self-conscious, positional readings that engaged in a critical dialogue with James’s text and with each other. These essays could follow, as indeed most of them have, established modes of critical articulation, or they could resort to deconstructive, ironic, parataxical procedures in order to fulfill their purposes. Students were also encouraged to seek some degree of self-awareness, to spell out the assumptions and critical operations that led from early response to critical ‘rewriting’. Ideally, after several weeks of intense rewriting and classroom discussion, all interpretations can attain this ‘bi-active’ critical focus on textual figuration and their own interpretive manoeuvres. The three papers left out did not manage to make it beyond the level of a good response report or a formalistic application of a readily available interpretative grid (in this case borrowed from Peircean semiotics).


Critical Rewrite Walk Away Textual Figuration Pile Surface Quest Narrative 
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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Marcel Cornis-Pop 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUK

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