2019-04Thematic Section
“The Figure in the Carpet” as Theoretical Tool


This study is based on the assumption that literary interpretations are explicitly or implicitly influenced by some philosophical system as a general system of thought. In this way, different literary interpretations often hide more general philosophical ideas. Nevertheless, this study tries to show that the interpretation of the given work of art need not be conceived only as application of the general philosophical approach; interpretation of the work of art, as argued in this essay, can in significant ways also show the philosophical approach itself. The subject of this study is the case of Henry James’s short story “The Figure in the Carpet.” This essay includes an analysis of how Tzvetan Todorov, Joseph Hillis Miller, Wolfgang Iser and of Pascale Casanova interpret the story and how they use its dominant image of a “figure in the carpet” for illustration of their own theoretical and philosophical approach.


Henry James, structuralism, deconstruction, reader-response theory, Pascale Casanova

How to cite:

Kaplický, Martin. “’The Figure in the Carpet’ as Theoretical Tool.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 3, no. 4(10) (2019): 21-31. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2019.0039.


Martin Kaplický
Department of Aesthetics, Charles University in Prague
Celetná 20, 116 42 Prague 1, Czech Rep.


Barthes, Roland. Critical Essays. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1972.

Casanova, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2004.

De Man, Paul. Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979.

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. A Choice of Kipling’s Verse. London: Faber and Faber LTD, 1973.

Intonti, Vittoria. “‘The Figure in the Carpet’ as an Allegory of Reading.” RSA Journal 7 (1996): 27–36.

Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.

James, Henry. Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934.

James, Henry. “The Figure in the Carpet.” In Complete Stories 1892–1898, 572-608. New York: Literary Classics of United States, 1996.

Miller, Joseph Hillis. “The Figure in the Carpet.” Poetics Today 1, no. 3 (1980): 107–118. https://doi.org/10.2307/1772414.

Miller, Joseph Hillis. Reading Narrative. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.

Pepper, Stephen Coburn. The Basis of criticism in the Arts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965.

Rorty, Richard. “The pragmatist’s progress.” In Interpretation and Overinterpretation, edited by Stefan Collini, 89-108. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Todorov, Tzvetan. “The Structural Analysis of Literature: the Tales of Henry James.” In Structuralism: an introduction, edited by David Robey. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973.

Open Access Statement:

This is an open access journal which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or his/her institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Submitting a text to Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture means that the author agrees with the general conditions of this license. The author does and will maintain copyrights and publishing rights for his/her article without any restrictions.