- Purchase/rental options available:
James’s “The Figure in the Carpet” (1896) can be read as a response to Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Mr. W. H. (1889). Both are uncannily similar in plot and theme; both represent literary criticism as a communal, homosocial, obsessive activity and pile up a surprising number of dead bodies. In this article I argue that Wilde and James explore central questions about authorship through these works on literary critics and through a shared investment in Shakespeare. James’s short story, “The Birthplace” (1903) and his preface to The Tempest (1907) reveal a conflict between his devotion to an autonomous artwork and his desire for an all-masterful artist. Reading these works in conjunction with New Critics’ Wimsatt and Beardsley’s positing of the intentional fallacy can help us understand the apparent paradoxes in James’s relationship to Shakespeare.