A “FIGURE” IN ISER’S “CARPET”
In the spirit of Iser’s analysis of Henry James’s story, I try to trace a “figure” in Iser’s own work, i.e. a patterning of recurrent expressions and concepts, creating continuity between his contributions to different areas , and an expansion of their implications and functions as he moves from reader’s response to literary anthropology to cultural translatability. The main features of the “figure” I detect in Iser’s work are: the space-between(+virtuality), dynamism (+process), interaction, blanks and gaps, activation of the reader’s imagination, a to-and-fro movement, plurality, kaleidoscopic switches, mutual mobilization. I trace these features throughout Iser’s work and show how they undergo intensification, self-reflexivity, and expansion as his work develops. Following this descriptive section, I discuss the significance (or “functions”) of the pattern in the light of Iser’s later work. I point out how the valorization of dynamism transforms shortcomings into opportunities as well as the ways in which the interaction between the reader and the text becomes a mise en abyme of people’s relations to themselves, to others, and to the world. After analyzing the “figure”, I “perform” it by discussing Beckett’s Company in conjunction with Iser’s theory as well as his analyses of Beckett’s trilogy and plays. Rather than “applying” Iser’s theory or textual insights, I “stage” an interplay in which my reading of Beckett simultaneously offers a reading of Iser. This move, I believe, “performs” Iser’s view of a “figure” in a “carpet” (James’s, Beckett’s, his own) not as a reified meaning or pattern but as a response-provoking constellation.