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A "Figure" in Iser's "Carpet" Author(s): Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan Reviewed work(s): Source: New Literary History, Vol. 31, No.

1, On the Writings of Wolfgang Iser (Winter, 2000), pp. 91-104 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20057589 . Accessed: 18/03/2013 11:04
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"Figure" Shlomith

in Iser's




a brilliant analysis of Henry Iser published 1978, Wolfgang James's in the Carpet."1 Around the same time, I also pub "The Figure lished a study of that enigmatic different story, from a completely an in it his work, essay concerning point of view.2 Twenty years later, to play Iser's own game and try to trace a "figure" in seems appropriate

Iser in the spirit of his reading of his "carpet." However, interpreting to him?"The James is a tricky business, since?according Figure in the (at least when interpretation Carpet" is a warning against interpretation
is conceived Furthermore, of as the a statement reasons for about Iser's a concealed objection to referential interpretation meaning). are part

this tracing parcel of the "figure" in his own "carpet." While Iwish to emphasize both the existence, in principle, "figure," therefore, of many other "figures" and the non-finalizing character of my interpre tation of its significance. A figure in a Persian of repetitive carpet is a complex yet pattern a will show similar in Iser's paper expanding shapes. My phenomenon and
work: continuity of sion a patterning between their of his recurrent contributions and expressions to different functions as and concepts, areas, he moves and from an creating expan reader


to literary anthropology to cultural translatability. In order to response render the "figure" concrete and bring it into sharp focus, I shall then "perform" it by reading Beckett's Company side by side with Iser's theory as well as his analyses of the trilogy and plays.
The main features of the "figure" I detect in Iser's work are: the space


(+ virtuality),
of the


(+ process),
imagination, a



and stress












reified meaning, and their permutations in Iser's work suggest that seeds of the later studies were in the earlier. Take, for already implicit the I which have example, kaleidoscope image, always associated with the later Iser and have now found in a work as early as The Implied Reader:
"As we have seen, of the activity of reading can be characterized More as a sort surpris of kaleidoscope perspectives, reintentions, recollections."3

ing, the concern


literary anthropology,



the center

New Literary History, 2000, 31: 91-104

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of Iser's theorizing in The Fictive and the Imaginary, is anticipated, though in one of his earliest publications in English, partly through negation, and the Reader's in Prose Fiction." In this "Indeterminacy Response Iser asks: want is it to "What that makes the reader share in the essay, of literature?" and then relegates the exploration of the to more another "This is for the question discipline: question perhaps than for the In critic."4 its 1993 (and anthropologist literary anticipation adventures
in 1989), this question no longer seems extra-literary. On the contrary,

as opposed to many current tendencies which explore literature through the prism of other disciplines (for example, philosophy, psychoanalysis), Iser is interested in using literature as exploratory. the Accordingly, subtitle of The Fictive and the Imaginary stresses a literary anthropology, and the book attempts to chart the human by way of its imagination
responses What are to literature. we to make of these (and other) recurrent concepts and

a Is Iser merely himself? Has he developed repeating framework and then simply applied it to different of conceptual objects study? To my mind, even if this were the case, "simply" would be far from a felicitous could be taken to rather, the "applications" description; indicate that the key discovered is so powerful that it opens many locks. I wish to make a stronger claim. I argue?and However, examples will the basic features of the "figure" in Iser's "carpet" undergo follow?that as his work and expansion intensification, self-reflexivity, develops. The expressions?
development, between sound. of "early" and course, "late," is a continuum, formulations not may a as my binary sometimes opposition make it

Intensification the mathematical

between work cesses elements describes (for


in raising phenomena the early work sense). While

(for "the reader" example, between elements fictive" and "the and

to a higher deals with

"the text"), turned

(in power interaction

the into later pro in

interaction example,

already imaginary").



that simultaneously turn, are put into motion by a relational operation to the activates them and is activated by them, thus raising the kinetic third power. I am referring to the way in which early statements By "self-reflexivity" in the later work by the very fabric of Iser's about literature are mirrored
style. Thus, for example, early discussions of the reader's to-and-fro

in tend to take the shape of approach-avoidance formulations the difficulty of reading Iser, but? the later work. True, this increases more importantly?it endows theoretical discourse with the performative to Iser), at once depriving nature characteristic of literature (according oscillation it of a claim

to truth and perpetuating

occurs on various levels.

the quest
First, there

for the inaccessible.

is the obvious move

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a broader






to literary anthropology specifically?from reader-response of become instruments Moreover, translatability. study objects in the early work, is the object of for further study. Thus, literature on the other hand, an in the later it becomes work, exploration; cultural instrument the


for exploring the operation of the human mind. Similarly, concerned is with the question work "How litera mainly early literature affect the reader while ture?"?that simulta is, how does on him?5 The "realized" later the other work, hand, by neously being
moves from "How literature?" to "Why literature?"?that is, what func

to the human makeup? in relation tions does literature perform This answers of become explains why early-phase question change triggers in the later phase. For example, for further questions blanks and gaps are important in the early phase because they make reading an active
process, cess" tions," an experience, in is valorized "closure," rather Iser against But why than a passive consumption, "essences," This is a and "entities," is process "givens," valorized? "pro "reifica



that the second phase in terms of van illuminates literature beyond limitations. human quishing to fill in my argument Instead of jumping ahead, however, I propose in two stages, following the expansion I have outlined. The first is
descriptive in character, exemplifying?mostly in Iser's own voice?the

of the "figure" and showing how they unfold with various components time. The second stage is a discussion of the significance (or functions) in the light of the later work. of the pattern In an oft-quoted Iser defines the literary work not statement, position
as an entity but as a space between two poles:6 "From this we may conclude

that the literary work has two poles, which we might call the artistic and the aesthetic: the artistic pole is the author's text and the aesthetic is the . . . the work cannot be identical realization accomplished reader the by with the text or with the concretization, but must be situated somewhere between the two" (IR 274).7 In a still earlier text, literature's "halfway is said to be "between the external world of objects and the position" reader's own world of experience" (RR 8). The subtitle of a collection a of Iser's is sample containing ongoing work on cultural translatability
"Figurations of the Space Between."8 Here the space is not only a result,

or manifestation, of the experience of cultural difference, but also a value. A "colonization of the space between" would involve either a of one culture by another or a self-effacement domination of a culture upon




the desirable


of respect



I have said earlier that the space-between is it a stable location. It is a process rather

is not an actual junction. than a product (AR 48), "a

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text and reader" interaction between his (RR 5). Throughout complex Iser the structures both between textual and their work, emphasizes play elements" within the ever recipient9 and the "continually interacting text name an is in It the of (RR 17). changing precisely experiential rather than a finalized meaning that Iser criticizes the critic process narrator in James's "The Figure in the Carpet." According to Iser, the
critic-narrator in James's story fails because he treats meaning as a

the story suggests that "meaning detachable is (AR 7), whereas message no an an to to is be defined, effect but be experienced" longer object from "an interaction (A? 9-10). The "figure" in the "carpet" emerges
between the textual signals and the reader's acts of comprehension"

interaction Here, age-old

is intensified
occurs faculties into between become

in The Fictive
elements modes Two


the Imaginary
turned and into


are key

already of operation,

definitions the title's





meant an

act, which

the dynamization
has all the qualities

quite from


(1) "Byfictive
to an event

and thus

is the



the definition



the burden
what fiction

of making
is."10 Because


of the objection to ontological definitions, chapter 1 of the book deals with "fictionalizing acts" rather than with "fiction" or "fictionality." (2) "As far as the literary text is concerned, the imaginary is not to be viewed
as a human operation, faculty; so that our the concern word is is with indicative its modes of a of manifestation program rather and than a

definition" fictive and

that title, activated animates

The (FI 305n4, my emphasis). the imaginary, obviously a central

the between relationship issue in the book bearing

a continual at once is a process, and motion, being activating two its constitutive motions. A similar kinetic by quality as "not a static and definable Iser's of culture entity conception

but a galaxy of mobile to a conceptual culture

supreme in all aspects of

features point

at reducing that dwarf every attempt of view" (TC 299). Dynamism reigns

the dynamic "How shall we then describe character of a text?" is a concerns from Iser the of his theoretical that question beginning recur in his various Two factors (RR 3). enterprise interdependent text and the in and "indeterminacies" the "blanks" descriptions: "gaps" one sees "If the the correlative reader's mountain, imagination: activity of then of course
the mountain


can no longer


it, and so the act of picturing

without the elements


its absence

. . . indeed

of indeterminacy, the gaps in the text, we should not be able to use our is, at (IR 283). The activity set in motion imagination" by these absences
least partly, a to-and-fro movement of constructing, discarding, and recon

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so as


seek consistency,


their efforts
"However, if





the reader were to achieve a balance, obviously he would then no longer in the process of establishing and disrupting be engaged consistency. And since it is this very process that gives rise to the balancing operation, we may say that the nonachievement is a prerequisite for the of balance the of (IR 286-87). very dynamism operation"
Discussions an of the to-and-fro "game" and movement on Iser's on part as the reader's he part describes, to glimpse become for the approach-avoidance textplay, staging, when attempts



without tampering with its inaccessibility. The process he is ever without toward a possibility with is one of gesturing concerned a possibility a it is is of: faked what with "every appearance coinciding to what cannot become of access mode (FT 300), and "the present" the it is forming bears is that what simulacrum always inscription inaccessible unformable" (?7302). to interaction The "figure" traced so far has linked the space-between as well to created by blanks and indeterminacies the dynamism and then as by incessant but necessarily unsuccessful to fill them in. Both attempts the virtual space and the gaps, however, also give rise to plurality, for in turn, provokes different readers fill them in differently. Plurality, further


and no



is potentially
can ever exhaust

the full




for each individual reader will fill in the gaps in his own way. ... In this of reading are revealed" (IR 280). The Fictive and very act the dynamics the Imaginary similarly relates plurality to the space-between: "Literature makes itself into a setting in which that very space launches itself into multifarious
Both the


movement of hypotheses-construction

are often of possibilities "variety," "diversity," "proliferation" " as kaleidoscopic switches" (?Txviii, 299). In The as described Reader, Implied we have already seen, the kaleidoscope to relates in the image changes and the
reader's interaction with the text. The Fictive and the Imaginary enlarges

of the image far beyond the activity of reading to the way we our to it lives. detects kaleidoscopic shifts in the Thus, give meaning of the of him/herself 284), (FI (FI reality rendering subject's staging characteristic of fictionalizing acts (FIxv), xix), the boundary-crossings to which we seek to gain access (?T299). In and even the inaccessibilities the scope The Translatability of Cultures the image is extended the life of the beyond to the cultural process, or more individual the specifically relationship between in it: "This kind of mutuality allows for all temporal dimensions kinds of kaleidoscopic shifts and gradations which tie tradition inextrica bly to a present and vice versa" (TC301).

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Are the kaleidoscopic shifts causes or results of the interplay between text and reader? This turns out to be a non-question in Iser's theory, for the "figure" in his "carpet" includes a mutual mobilization of cause and
effect, of actor and acted-upon. In a similar way, the space-between both

generates participants
reader "sets

interaction and the reader-text are themselves in the interaction

the work in motion, and so sets

is generated by it. The mutually activating: The

in motion too" (AR


21). Moreover, to the process

me that this

neither of mutual

the text nor "definition"


the reader has a fixed and mutual

the reader as travels

identity prior "it seems to change:

inside the text


the instructions given to him, actually gives shape the between is discerned A of (IT 52). mutuality shape-giving identity" is into the reader concealed "What and the spurs explicit implicit: action, but this action is also controlled by what is revealed; the explicit to light" the implicit has been brought in its turn is transformed when is the fictive and the imaginary between (IT 52). And the interaction the "the fictive also characterized compels imagi by interchangeability: and executes
nary to take on a form at the same time that it acts as a medium for its

to his

under the manifestation" (?Txvii). This double activity is accomplished a to similar itself of which process. Play, according undergoes aegis play, for the productiv Iser, "is both a product of activation and the condition it stimulates" about by the interaction (?<7xvii), and "Play ity brought a mode of discovery but is itself changed by what it has set in becomes what it has also "constitutes motion" (FI 294). Like play, culture
connected. As cultures are not clear-cut givens, let alone entities, their

The various


of the

in mutual


(TC 300).
stasis, maintain gaps and

toward the


without either

the desire

to fill
it accessible


in, gesture
giving it a


of reading. definable identity; in short, they keep alive the dynamics it so At least in Iser's valorized is partly because theory? Why dynamism
turns comings various limitations into features into advantages. Indeed, is another "figure." Thus, the common as we transformation denominator have seen earlier, of short among the opportunities of the

in motion sets the imagination mountain of the (metaphoric) a clues consistent balance to of achieve the reader's (IR 283); inability with the work (IR further engagement has the advantage of provoking to exhaust the full of any realization and the incapacity 286-87); in a to and text both rise of reading productivity plurality gives potential absence

At stake is a view objects, of literature and a autonomous experience of conception as rather reading as than an as a active corpus interac of

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than as their passive consumption. The underlying out by have been sufficiently assumptions pointed phenomenological as as on commentators himself Iser well his work.11 What has by various of the "figure" beyond only recently come to light are the implications in retrospect of these later insights literature, although foreshadowings can be traced in earlier texts as well. In the later work, it seems to me, a mise en abyme of the the interaction between reader and text becomes tion with texts rather to others, and to the world. This may relate to themselves, ways people as be the reason why Iser retrospectively describes literary anthropology
"both Our an underpinning non-coincidence and with an offshoot ourselves, of reader the response opacity of criticism."12 others, and

are the main human limitations dwelt on in The Fictive temporal and the Imaginary. They are also the main triggers for recurrent attempts at self-extension. Non-coincidence is both ontological and epistemologi finitude
cal. The incapacity to be self-present results in an insurmountable

distance between while we do have

neous certainty," an

"being" "evidential
like falling


"having" experiences,"
love, we


(FI 296). Moreover, characterized by "instanta

know what we experience,


we cannot

"look at" what happens

incessant process of

to us

(FI 299-300).
out illusory





into opportu understandings, thereby turning disadvantages nities. In Iser's words, "The impossibility to ourselves of being present our possibility to play ourselves out to the fullness becomes that knows
no bounds, because no matter how vast the range, none of the


If we are,

in this

'make us tick'" (FI 297).

sense, our own otherness, our attempts to understand

"others" is at least equally problematic. The opacity of the other Iser before The Fictive and the intrigued long Imaginary. In "Interaction between Text and Reader," he approached the problem from the The of Politics to perspective Laing's of Experience. According Laing, 'Your me me to of is invisible and of my experience experience you is invisible other
to you. I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my



are both
is man's

invisible men.

All men
to man."13



to one for



through becoming
us to

Iser's a



to know how


the desire





to interaction.
own conception



in our knowl
way the other



to the other being based upon these us, our reactions that these are projections, time, however, we discover projections. With that is, "images" of a reality that exists but remains unknowable. Such a is itself potentially further construction discovery productive, initiating experiences

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98 and further
those who




take such


the other hand,

as reality stops

the reification
the quest for




relations. ing and often distorts human to understand inexhaustible and provoking attempts By dramatizing seems to offer an also the self, literature the other and fashion It "makes the interminable finiteness. beyond temporal expansion as the postponement of the end" (?Txix). Of of ourselves appear staging such staging does not literally postpone course, death, but "appear
ance," "fiction," may be the only "pragmatic extension" possible.14 The

interminable "figure"

of death
search, in Iser's

thus adds



all aspects

to the
of the


say I again, ever again, it's too farcical. I shall put in its if I think of it," says Beckett's I hear it, the third person, whenever place, the inevitabil and At once denying Unnamable.15 self-identity admitting statement could not "I" this of of paradoxical by way ity performance, "I shall not
fail Iser's to attract repertoire. Iser's His attention. relatively Indeed, early Beckett essays, "The has a place of of honor in in Pattern Negativity

Beckett's Prose" and "The Art of Failure: The Stifled Laugh in Beckett's I detected in Iser's contain most Theater"16 (if not all) the elements In Beckett's work, Iser finds blanks and indetermi theoretical writings. a to-and-fro movement into a plurality of possibilities, nacies exploding and then instantly rejected as well as of of statements that are made an endless groping toward the inacces and destroying, fiction-building
sible, an unresolved process in the represented world, causing an

or watching. Moreover,



in the experience
functions of these

of reading



the concept also anticipated by Iser's early studies of Beckett. Through in of the self with himself of negativity, he analyzes the non-coincidence of identity as the trilogy. In Beckett he also explores both the condition and the opacity of the other. without evidential knowledge experience charac lead Beckett's with human These limitations, finiteness, together "The and of ters to a never-ending game narrating. process fictionalizing "can never stop, and it is this fact that Iser concludes, with fictions," not this infinitude" finiteness with endows man's (PN 151). Does and the The Fictive a from sound like conclusion Imaginary} quotation And yet it comes from a study of Beckett! the "figure" and render concrete Iser's essays on Beckett foreshadow

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from his interaction with in his own "carpet." Has Iser's theory emerged Beckett's texts, or does he project his own emergent theory on Beckett? is unanswerable. this question In terms of the "figure" I have outlined, or another, I see the in one direction than posit causality Rather
relations between the two as a case of mutual mobilization. In other


a basis and a confirmation of Iser's thinking, and a result of reading. an and add?is both would underpinning theory?I now like to discuss I would the interactional To continue chain, with Iser's theory as well as his analyses Beckett's Company in conjunction of the trilogy and the plays.17 My aim is not to "apply" Iser's theory or in which my reading of textual insights, but to "stage" an interplay I believe, offer a reading of Iser. This move, Beckett will simultaneously Beckett is both
"performs" not own) constellation. Iser's as a view of a reified meaning "figure" or "carpet" but pattern in a as Beckett's, (James's, a response-provoking his

a of a "fabling" subject Company, as I see it, is fictional autobiography as of the first person and "speak [s] of himself avoids who carefully
another." Paradoxically, the "I" is present through absence and nega

the subject on his back in the dark muses: "In tion. At one point, .. . it all for company. another dark or in the same another devising Why in another dark or in the same? And whose voice asking this?Who asks,
Whose voice asking this? And answers, His soever who devises it all. . . .

last of all. Unnamable. Who asks in the end, Who asks? The unthinkable I.Quick leave him" (C22, 24). The technique used here is Last person. in his analysis of the trilogy, that is, the one Iser describes precisely a a statement and it, making posing hypothesis instantly dismantling to "I" dismiss it. With the only explicitly eschewed, Company dramatizes of the subject with himself non-coincidence through an interplay of
personal pronouns, a discontinuity between present and past, a dismem

berment The
in the

of the body, and a fragmentation of the text. text alternates between sections in the third person
second. The second-person sections are spoken by

and sections
a voice and

situation of the solitary subject ('You are on partly the present in the and back which the voice wishes to dark") your partly memories, convince the one are his (annoying his mother about the by a comment of the sky, being encouraged distance by his father to jump into the the death of the hedgehog, an water, unwittingly causing having ambivalent with a woman). The third-person sections are relationship the one on his back in the dark and partly about an partly about creative process?with cerebral its hypotheses, hesitations, amazingly someone who "devise [s] it all for and reservations?of (C8). company" These shifts, as well as the omission dramatize, they signal, "perform," a de-reification, destabilization, and dispersal of the concept of "self:


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"Use of cankerous
would be




the voice. That of the third that the second person marks other. Could he speak to and of whom the voice speaks there
a first. But he cannot. He shall not. You cannot. You shall not"

not only dismantles pronouns any essentialist interplay between view of self, but also problematizes its unity. Are "he" and "you" the same in the third from different person perspectives (being spoken about to in the second)? Or "May there not be another person and spoken with him in the dark to and of whom the voice is speaking"? (C8-9) Are or are there different in the others of the figments Company, subjects one on concern of in the his back the dark? imagination Indeterminacy transforms the one into many and the many into ing identity continually Unity
his past. integration:

(C8). The


of self is also undermined

The deviser, "To have it the seems hearer

by severing
to me, have a aims past

the subject's
at and the





personal it. You



By owning

on an Easter Friday after long labor. Yes I remember" (C34). the with one's memories and establishing past, one continuity
access to a voice and an I: "Another trait its repetitiousness.

with only minor variants the same bygone. As if willing him Repeatedly to make this dint it his. To confess, Yes I remember. Perhaps even to by have a voice. To murmur, Yes I remember" (C 16). But the subject is or own to his the hence disclaiming memories, incapable, unwilling, an as as a to to of I would instead well voice that speak, passively right
being spoken to and about by other voices.

is paralleled between past and present by a frag discontinuity to a back, a hand, an eye, a mentation of the body. The body is reduced from each other. Analogously, the body of disconnected knee, feet?all sections and the the text is fragmented the by alternating pronominal no less (perhaps more) is Non-coincidence dislocations. temporal in Company than it was in the trilogy. dominant The
Non-coincidence, dicament. It also however, offers an is not opportunity only a for disadvantaged self-extension, human interaction, pre

side of the subject's fragmenta The brighter and creative imagination. tion is his plurality. Free from the confines of a unified entity, the subject can be seen a multiplicity of roles, and the changing pronouns becomes as different positions of the mind in relation to itself: the mind talking to itself as if from the outside, perceiving own its activity. Similarly, the disconti inventing imagining?even as a liberation from pseudo seen can be and between past present nuity sameness. the subject's disowning of Far from shirking responsibility, as can be perceived, from this point of view, past memories emphasizing itself about itself, occasionally often

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the dynamics of change: "One day! In the end. In the end you will utter again. Yes I remember. That was I. That was I then" (C 21; my emphasis). In a mutual mobilization that Iser would no doubt appreciate, the absence of unity turns out to be both a trigger and an effect of company. As long as there is unity, there is no company. Otherness is a necessary condition
form of

for company,

and when


is alone,





In his solitude, the subject aspects or parts of the subject into others. invokes the voice and the hearer as potential friends: "Little by little as
he lies the craving for company revives. . . .The need to hear that voice

again" "Might improved? Made more not if human" Parts of the body (for (C 34). companionable downright ear the and [C34]) example, physical postures (being prone or supine an addition to company, as do the also become [C 26-27, 56]) rat and dead would who been have (C 28) (C 27) hypothetical fly (C 55);
welcome in the empty room.





ing," and

and sociability


in Company on "fabling,"
calls "fictionalizing acts."



is, what

deviser devising it all for subject a his limits (C 46), straining beyond world, company" by imagining narrating his story to himself, and inventing doubles who both are and are not himself. In what Iser (both when analyzing Beckett and when
developing his own theory) describes as a to-and-fro movement, doubles

on his back

in the dark

is a "devised

are no sooner

conjured up is particularly pronounced sequence zigzagging invented to "represent" or "name" the doubles.
the creator muses: "Let the hearer be named

than rejected

as mere

figments. This type of in relation to the initials the divine fiat, Evoking
Aspirate. Haitch. You


are on your back in the dark. And let him know his name" An of not a is to addition course, initial, name, but?in (C31). exactly the of sound often to in referred the is the text?"H" evoking breathing, first letter in both "hearer" and "he," thus gaining a certain degree of "Is it desirable? No. only to be immediately substantiality, dispelled: Would he gain thereby in companionability? No. Then let him not be Haitch
named H. Let him be again as he was. The hearer. Unnamable. You"

(C32). But the game with letters does not stop here. A few pages later, "feeling the need for company again he tells himself to call the hearer M
at least. For readier reference. Himself some other character. W" (C42

= 43). This time, the initial confers an even greater (M substantiality but at it also hints the of doubles both by AM?), interchangeability calling the other AM and by using two letters which visually mirror each in reverse other W = "double you," and the (M and W). Moreover, hearer was constantly addressed as "you." In typical fashion, however, all

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this is soon




to add to this esquisse? His "Is there anything undone: Even M must go. So W reminds himself of his creature as unnamability. so far created. W? But W too is creature. Figment" (C 45). creates who are never not insubstantial figments only Fictionalizing to postpone in Iser?appears theless a good enough society, but also?as are with both the end. Fabling, devising, company narrating equated and life. At the end, the subject is lonely and expiring. Death cannot be
postponed once 'You hear how words are coming to an end. With every

inane word a little nearer to the last. And how the fable too. The fable of one with you in the dark. The fable of one fabling with you in the dark. And how better in the end labor lost and silence. And you as you always "Alone" thus terminates were. / Alone" life, the game with (C 62-63).
fictions, the subject's process of narration, and Beckett's text.




I trace

patterning in the







kinetic undergoes

By analogy
cluster a

with James's

story and

Iser's reading
"carpet," and expansion and


it, I call this

it that argue as Iser's work



I then "perform" the "figure" by reading develops. with Iser's theory as well as his analyses of Beckett.
Quite retrospect, therefore analogies a few they an appropriate between what analogies strike me in emerge as a further conclusion Iser culture. expansion as a says about the course confirmation to my different I believe, in his work. discussion.

Company side by side

of my of the First, argument. "figure" there In and are

areas: are Further

literary anthropology, the and continuity

These, I see

reader-response, a manifestation analogies can

of be


can be

Iser's theoretical

of mutual

and his analyses


of Beckett.


of Iser's theory. This iswhy work seen as both a basis and a confirmation the theory emerges from Iser's interaction with it is hard to say whether of his is a projection texts or, conversely, his reading of Beckett Beckett's can be perceived between what A mobilization similar mutual theory. since I Iser says about Beckett's trilogy and what I say about Company, with the former. read the latter in conjunction kind is the analogy between what Iser says and the way Of a different in an approach-avoidance he says it, for example when, style, he talks Iser's between The analogy about a to-and-fro movement. theorizing to the same category, both because my and my analysis of it belongs to of his "figure" and because my style begins is a retracing analysis and like his. Beyond and more sound more continuity, expansion,

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these analogies dramatize the performative mutual mobilization, aspect of both literature and literary theory. Thus Iser does not only say what he and thinks but does it in his own writing. And texts?James's, Beckett's, act not for the reader's of but invitations Iser's?are objects deciphering
to a response that "performs" them. This, perhaps, is why Iser "repeats"

and I "repeat" both Iser and Beckett. James and Beckett, A caveat is in order, however. If the reader's interaction with the text is, and if there is a "figure" in the textual in some sense, its "performance," a seems to hover over the interplay. It is certain determinism carpet,
important to emphasize, in defense, that there is always more than one

in Iser is in no way "carpet," and the one I discerned "figure" readers find and "perform" different exclusive.18 Different "figures," the reading-game alive. As Iser explicitly and self plurality keeping an in "the be if blocked would interview, says any model reflexively path in a textual
achieved sufficient success to become reified."19



of Jerusalem

1 Wolfgang Iser, "Partial Art?Total In Place of an Introduction," in the 'The Figure of Aesthetic Response of Ambiguity?The


Interpretation: Henry in The Act of Reading: in the Carpet,"

James, A Theory

(London, 1978), pp. 3-10. 2 Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan,

"The Figure

in The Concept

1977), pp. 95-115. (Chicago, Example offames 3 Wolfgang in Prose Fiction from Bunyan Iser, The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication to Beckett (Baltimore, cited in text as IR 1974), p. 279; hereafter 4 Wolfgang and the Reader's in Prose Fiction" Iser, "Indeterminacy (1971), Response to Literary Anthropology (Baltimore, 1989), p. 29; rpt. in Prospecting: From Reader Response hereafter 5 Sartre's cited in text as RR. "What answers. is literature?" is obviously one that Iser would reject as question, a call for essentialist reifying, 6 In the descriptive section for famous

I underline that follows, constitutive of the "figure," concepts the sake of clarity and conspicuity. 7 Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response (London, 1978), p. 21; hereafter cited in text as AR The Translatability Budick and of Cultures: Figurations of the Space Between, ed. Sanford Iser (Stanford, cited in text as TC. 1996); hereafter Wolfgang 9 For example, Wolfgang Text and Reader" between Iser, "Interaction (1980), rpt. in hereafter in text as IT. cited 31; p. Prospecting, 10 Wolfgang Iser, The Fictive and the Imaginary: Charting Literary Anthropology (Baltimore, hereafter cited in text as FI. 1993), p. 305n3 (his emphasis); 11 For example, Robert C Holub, 1984). Reception Theory (London, 12 Wolfgang Iser, Prospecting, p. vii. 13 R. D. Laing, The Politics (Harmondsworth, of Experience "Interaction Text and Reader," between p. 32. 14 In a discussion of the unknowability of others, Iser similarly 1968), in Iser, 8


says about


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comprehension in Prospecting, 15 Samuel

even is the only one possible, real of comprehension "this mode though in Beckett's Prose" is not possible" [19751, rpt. ("The Pattern of Negativity cited in text as PN). p. 149; hereafter Three Novels: Molloy. Malone Dies. The Unnamable 1965), Beckett, (New York, The Stifled in Beckett's Theater" (1981),

p. 355. 16 Wolfgang Iser, "The Art of Failure: pp. 152-93. rpt. in Prospecting,


to questions in subordination of modernism 17 Iser discusses (one page) Cowman); briefly this text with in Implied Reader, pp. 55-71.1 and postmodernism analyzed myself previously A Glance on the reversibility an emphasis of narrative levels (Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, There is 1996], pp. 93-103). [Columbus, Subjectivity Beyond Doubt: Narration, Representation, to Company are taken from Samuel some overlap two studies. References between my Beckett, (London, Company 18 Iser's one page Indeed, different from mine. 19 Wolfgang cited in text as C. 1980); hereafter on that his reading suggests Company p. 56. of this text may well be

Iser, Prospecting,

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