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For René Girard: Essays in Friendship and in Truth

Sandor Goodhart
Jørgen Jørgensen
Tom Ryba
James G. Williams
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 289
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  • Book Info
    For René Girard
    Book Description:

    In his explorations of the relations between the sacred and violence, René Girard has hit upon the origin of culture-the way culture began, the way it continues to organize itself. The way communities of human beings structure themselves in a manner that is different from that of other species on the planet.Like Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim, Martin Buber, or others who have changed the way we think in the humanities or in the human sciences, Girard has put forth a set of ideas that have altered our perceptions of the world in which we function. We will never be able to think the same way again about mimetic desire, about the scapegoat mechanism, and about the role of Jewish and Christian scripture in explaining sacrifice, violence, and the crises from which our culture has been born.The contributions fall into roughly four areas of interpretive work: religion and religious study; literary study; the philosophy of social science; and psychological studies.The essays presented here are offered as "essays" in the older French sense of attempts (essayer) or trials of ideas, as indeed Girard has tried out ideas with us. With a conscious echo of Montaigne, then, this hommage volume is titledEssays in Friendship and in Truth.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-129-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Receiving René Girard into the Académie Française
    (pp. 1-18)
    Michel Serres

    How does that barking come in here? And where does it come from? In therécitof Théramène, do we know the meaning of those runaway horses dragging the torn and quartered cadaver of Hippolyte along the beach? Who are these serpents hissing about our heads?

    My dear sir, we thank you for making us understand that these whinnyings, these howlings of enraged animals, are our own shouts; we thank you for revealing, in this bloody pack, in that breakaway carriage team, in this nest of vipers, in these fierce beasts, the abominable violence of our own society; we thank...

  5. René et moi
    (pp. 19-26)
    Eric Gans

    I first encountered René Girard on entering the graduate program in Romance languages at Johns Hopkins University in 1960, just before the publication ofMensonge romantique et vérité romanesquein 1961 brought him wide public recognition.¹ Although I was immediately struck by the power and range of his intellect, it was only with the appearance ofLa violence et le sacréin 1972 that I realized that his mimetic theory of desire was in fact the kernel of a radically new anthropology.²

    Since the time of Durkheim and Freud, the collective scene of human culture, with its tensions and constraints,...

  6. Great Books
    (pp. 27-38)
    Andrew J. McKenna

    These remarks are an updated revision, for the purposes of this volume, of an autobiographical statement that I, along with a small number of other faculty members at my university, was asked to present for a discussion group funded by the Lilly Foundation. The aim of the grant was to explore the relations between academic research choices as they might reflect, embody, or connect with the sense of a calling; this included a possible spiritual sense of that word as often implied by its Latinate equivalent, vocation, inherited from a religious tradition that is now in a state of imponderable...

  7. My Encounter with René Girard
    (pp. 39-50)
    Cesáreo Bandera

    It happened in the town of East Aurora, in Western New York, where René lived at the time. We had just finished lunch, and he was talking passionately about his work. “I’m convinced,” he said, “I can explain the passage from animal to man.” I will never forget it. My reaction was a bit nervous. I think I told him, only half jokingly, that he should not say such things in public. People might think he was going a little over the edge. But I was impressed by the sheer intellectual power and the scope of what he was explaining...

  8. My Life with René
    (pp. 51-56)
    Jean-Michel Oughourlian

    Like all the authors who have contributed to this volume, my life is divided into two parts—before my encounter with René Girard, and after.

    In my adolescence and youth, I was an imitator, and I used my gift to amuse my classmates and friends as well as to play practical jokes, such as mimicking the voice of one of my parents’ friends and phoning his butler to order dinner for twelve for that very evening—a prank that I found hilarious but that resulted in some stern reprimands. My faculty for imitation was a natural outgrowth of my curiosity...

  9. Detour and Sacrifice: Illich and Girard
    (pp. 57-78)
    Jean-Pierre Dupuy

    I first came across René Girard’s work in 1975. The director of the influential journal Esprit, Jean-Marie Domenach, urged me that year to readLa violence et le sacré.¹ That book represented in his opinion a major breakthrough in the social sciences, and Esprit was playing a major role in publicizing it. I read it reluctantly, as I was at the time still under the spell of the thinking of Ivan Illich, a major social critic with whom I had just collaborated in the writing of his bookMedical Nemesis.² I was impressed but not especially moved by my reading...

  10. Already from the Beginning
    (pp. 79-86)
    Paul Dumouchel

    I first read René Girard when I was an undergraduate philosophy student, twenty-one or twenty-two years old. I boughtLa Violence et sacréin Canada during the summer of what must have been 1972 or 1973. At that time, I worked evening shifts (from 4:00 PM to midnight) on a summer job in a shelter for street kids, mainly young addicts and victims of family violence. I read the book in early September on the plane that brought me back to France and on the train between Paris and Aix-en-Provence where I was studying. I could not put it down....

  11. Literature, Myth, and Prophecy: Encountering René Girard
    (pp. 87-100)
    Sandor Goodhart

    Will these years since World War II prove to have been a turning point? Will historians look back upon this moment and observe that the wartime violence—the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the day-to-day combat of the war itself (as well as the violence that followed it in Biafra, in Rwanda, and in the killing fields of Pol Pot)—was so great, so horrific, that we finally devised a way to end it? Or will this period that has seemed so momentous to us—to those of us born after the war—turn out to be but a lull in...

  12. A Phenomenology of Redemption?
    (pp. 101-110)
    Robert J. Daly

    Not unlike many of the colleagues I meet at the annual meetings of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, I came late to the study of René Girard and mimetic theory. For me it began in the late 1970s, during my first sabbatical away from Boston College. I was settling in with my Jesuit colleagues at Sankt Georgen, the Jesuit theological seminary and research institute in Frankfurt, Germany. The two books on Christian sacrifice that were based on my Würzburg dissertation and established my scholarly reputation were about to appear.¹ I had been awarded tenure and had already served the...

  13. The Girard Effect
    (pp. 111-118)
    William A. Johnsen

    When I finished graduate school in English in 1970, I had two schemes for writing about modern literature. The first was my dissertation, which was a structuralist analysis of modernism, based almost exclusively on my reading of Lévi-Strauss but alleviated providentially by encountering Edward Said, who was a visiting researcher in 1968 at the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois. I depended heavily on Said’s 1967 delimiting review ofThe Savage Mind,“The Totalitarianism of Mind.”¹ My idea was that there was a sequential, tripartite pattern traced out in the great modern writers. Joyce, Eliot, Lawrence, and...

  14. René Girard: The Architect of My Spiritual Home
    (pp. 119-130)
    Jozef Niewiadomski

    Born in the early 1950s in Poland, I grew up in a farmer’s family in a small rural village. Just like all the other villagers, I was socialized in the Catholic parish. I experienced the safety and security of the religious environment entirely from the perspective of unbroken childlike trust. As a fourteen-year-old, I went to the big city and moved into a Communist boarding school. It was not difficult to connect the problems of puberty and the feeling of homelessness with Communist ideology. The ideal concept of home life as defined by the Church was not damaged in the...

  15. Eucharisto, René Girard: Searching for a Pacifist Theology
    (pp. 131-138)
    Jacques-Jude Lépine

    In my early twenties, I joined a Byzantine Catholic commune in the south of France, La Communauté de la Théophanie. It was at the crossroads of a number of influences, especially Gandhian nonviolence and the discovery and practice of Eastern Christianity, along with a third influence, the Charismatic Renewal, with its religious fervor and warm ecumenical impulse. Nonviolence was a whole program. It meant a simple, rural daily lifestyle tending toward economic self-sufficiency and a refusal to participate in any form of violence, direct or institutional, such as military service. A disciple and friend of Gandhi, Lanza del Vasto, had...

  16. The Way to More Insight and Personal Freedom
    (pp. 139-146)
    Sonja Pos

    Years ago, before I readDes choses cachéesandLe bouc émissaire,I sensed that somewhere a light was shining, although I was unable to find it.

    I’ll never forget the evening in France when all of that changed. I was visiting friends in the village of Roussillon near Avignon, the village where Samuel Beckett and his Jewish friend, the painter Henri Hayden, among many others, had hidden from the Nazis during World War II. My French friend, a clever, well-read woman named Cécile, stepped out of her farm library, held up a French volume bearing the well-known yellow cover...

  17. Girard, Buddhism, and the Psychology of Desire
    (pp. 147-158)
    Eugene Webb

    I have been asked to contribute a brief discussion of René Girard’s psychological thought, with some reference to the ways it has contributed to my work in my own areas of interest. My last published volume was a study of French psychological thought that focused extensively on Girard and tried to place him in the context of the Freudian influence in France from the time of Jacques Lacan.¹ Since then I have continued to be interested in the ways in which psychological development may influence or be influenced by patterns of religious thinking. My academic career has spanned several fields,...

  18. Magister Lucis: In the Light of René Girard
    (pp. 159-168)
    James G. Williams

    The year 1985 was a “before and after” year for me. It was one of those years when you experience a significant event or change, so you tend to remember and identify things in your life as before or after it. I first encountered Girard’s work in April 1985 when I was in Strasbourg, France, for three weeks. While there, I presented a paper to the professors of the Catholic and Protestant faculties of biblical studies of the University of Strasbourg in which I sketched patterns in the enemy brother stories of the book of Genesis and noted one striking...

  19. Breakout from the Belly of the Beast
    (pp. 169-178)
    Robert Hamerton-Kelly

    We are asked to tell how “the encounter with his [Girard’s] work has changed your own work,” how it changed the way we do things in all the contexts about which we are willing to write. My encounter with Girard had a great impact on me and I shall try to tell of it in three contexts: general experience (anthropology), biblical interpretation (hermeneutic), and pastoral work (psychology and sociology). Our mandate means that my remarks will perforce be unusually personal; nevertheless, I shall try to stay out of the swamp of sentimentality and off the mountaintop of self-attested success. There...

  20. On Paper and in Person
    (pp. 179-188)
    Gil Bailie

    Books that leave an impression on me are inevitably books on which I have scrawled many impressions of my own. I am a librarian’s nightmare. I seem unable to read a book that truly interests me without marking up the margins and underlining liberally. Because this habit goes back many years, my library, though virtually useless to secondhand book dealers, is considerably useful to me, for it functions as a diary of sorts. When I return to a favorite book to reread it or to find a memorable passage, I experience a bit of the excitement that attended my first...

  21. Drawn into Conversion: How Mimetic Theory Changed My Way of Being a Christian Theologian
    (pp. 189-198)
    Wolfgang Palaver

    There were surely several circumstances in my life that prepared me to become interested in mimetic theory while I was studying theology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. First, I have maintained a long ongoing interest in anthropology. During my time in high school, I was already starting to read books about foreign cultures (both modern and premodern) and even seriously thinking about becoming an anthropologist. Second, I was also very much in love with literature and therefore starting to study German language and literature, in addition to theology. My political involvement in the peace movement of the early...

  22. For René Girard: In Appreciation
    (pp. 199-210)
    Richard J. Golsan

    I am very pleased and honored to contribute to this volume honoring René Girard. Girard’s ideas have been so important to me in my professional and personal life that it is very difficult to assess that impact in a brief narrative. In effect, I “live” with Girard every day and find it hard to imagine negotiating the world without the benefit of his insights.

    In what follows, I want to offer, first, some personal details of how I discovered Girard’s work and the stages I went through in absorbing its lessons. Then I want to point to the ways in...

  23. Dispatch from the Girardian Boundary
    (pp. 211-222)
    Charles Mabee

    René Girard is another in the increasingly long list of modern thinkers who remind us that the world we live in is not quite what it appears to be. The list of these venerable hermeneuticians of suspicion is by now quite long, exceeding by several orders of magnitude what might be termed “the Big Three” of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud (should Darwin and Feuerbach have been left off the original list?). More contemporary members of the club might include by common agreement such iconoclasts as Foucault, Derrida, Rorty, Ellul, Kuhn, Deleuze, Lyotard, Feyerabend, and Dawkins, among others. And why exactly...

  24. Things Still Hidden . . .
    (pp. 223-234)
    Anthony Bartlett

    1984. The fabled year. When literature as a date kept a date with itself. When the media constructed reality for us. When thought police checked what we were reading, and an endless war was waged on a far off continent.…

    We would have to wait just a little to see these features of the parable converge with fact—a new millennium, a new world order. In the meantime, however, in that same storied year, literature and history came together for me at a level more truthful even than Orwell’s masterpiece. Another book fell into my hands, one that established a...

  25. The Mimeticist Turn: Lessons from Early Girard
    (pp. 235-246)
    Chris Allen Carter

    I still remember the day I began to appreciate the work of René Girard. It was a summer morning in 1979, and I was doing research in the Bizzell Memorial Library at the University of Oklahoma. I was drafting a dissertation on Kenneth Burke and was in the habit of checking any book that came into my hands to see if there were any references to Burke. I chanced across Girard’s latest publication,To Double Business Bound.¹ Flipping through the text, I discovered this passage:

    In some respects at least, Kenneth Burke points the way toward more rather than less...

  26. Sacrifice and Sexual Difference: Insights and Challenges in the Work of René Girard
    (pp. 247-258)
    Martha Reineke

    The groundwork for my encounter with the work of René Girard was laid early in my life. I grew up in a tumultuous era that sensitized me to violence. Trips with my parents through the U.S. South enabled me to observe the persistence of Jim Crow in “colored” and “white” schools. Even as a child, I saw and felt that race-based disparities in educational opportunity constituted a reprehensible act of violence. The Vietnam War shaped my experience in high school and college. Especially in college, I brought the resources of my liberal education to bear upon the violence around me....

  27. “The Key of Knowledge”: A Brief and Entirely Insufficient Account of a Discovery
    (pp. 259-264)
    Giuseppe Fornari

    To explain my intellectual and personal debt to René Girard is not easy for me, at least not at this particular moment in my career, a moment when I am increasingly developing my own ideas with the aim of broadening and strengthening the extraordinary discoveries made by Girard. It seems to me, moreover, preposterous to list all Girard’s important ideas as a thinker. Many others have done that, and this is not the proper place for that kind of narrative.

    What follows, then, is not intended as a simple tribute but rather as a short and entirely insufficient account of...

  28. Mimetic Theory and Christian Theology in the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 265-272)
    Michael E. Hardin

    In 1944, from his prison cell at Tegel, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wondered whether Christianity had in fact outlived its usefulness as a religion.¹ His sentiments have been echoed in the subsequent half-century since, particularly with the rise of the postmodern climate. It would not be difficult to multiply logarithmically these critiques of Christianity. That there has been an expulsion of things Christian from the academy there is no doubt; more notably, it is paralleled in the expulsion of Jesus from the Christian churches.

    Since the 1970s, it is asserted, we have become postmodern. Richard Jensen notes three central assumptions of postmodernism:...

  29. René Girard’s Hermeneutic: Discovery and Pedagogy
    (pp. 273-282)
    Tyler Graham

    I discovered Girard during my junior year at Stanford University, in the spring of 1994. At that time, my primary intellectual worldview was typical of the literary theoretical climate of the day: deconstruction. Not well schooled in the work of Derrida and others engaged in that mode of criticism, I was easily led to believe that infinite interpretations (and, thus, no one true interpretation) of a text were always possible. I readDeceit, Desire, and the Novel¹ at the end of the summer, and I still recall the effect of Girard’s description of Don Quixote on the first page: the...

  30. About the Editors and Contributors
    (pp. 283-289)
  31. Back Matter
    (pp. 290-290)