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The Prophetic Law

The Prophetic Law: Essays in Judaism, Girardianism, Literary Studies, and the Ethical

Sandor Goodhart
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 342
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  • Book Info
    The Prophetic Law
    Book Description:

    To read literature is to read the way literature reads. René Girard's immense body of work supports this thesis bountifully. Whether engaging the European novel, ancient Greek tragedy, Shakespeare's plays, or Jewish and Christian scripture, Girard teaches us to read prophetically, not by offering a method he has developed, but by presenting the methodologies they have developed, the interpretative readings already available within (and constitutive of) such bodies of classical writing. InThe Prophetic Law, literary scholar, theorist, and critic Sandor Goodhart divides his essays on René Girard since 1983 into four groupings. In three, he addresses Girardian concerns with Biblical scripture (Genesis and Exodus), literature (the European novel and Shakespeare), and philosophy and religious studies issues (especially ethical and Jewish subject matters). In a fourth section, he reproduces some of the polemical exchanges in which he has participated with others-including René Girard himself-as part of what could justly be deemed Jewish-Christian dialogue. The twelve texts that make up the heart of this captivating volume constitute the bulk of the author's writings to date on Girard outside of his three previous books on Girardian topics. Taken together, they offer a comprehensive engagement with Girard's sharpest and most original literary, anthropological, and scriptural insights.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-413-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. An Introduction to Girardian Reading
    (pp. xv-xxxvi)

    All of the essays that follow this introduction were delivered as papers or written directly for publication in relation to the work of René Girard. Many were conceived in connection with annual meetings of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion. Others were delivered at joint meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, and elsewhere. Still others were written for theBulletinof the Colloquium on Violence and Religion or its journal,Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. Others again were written for theJournal of Religion and Literatureand theJournal of Philosophy:...


    • “I Am Joseph”: Judaism, Anti-Idolatry, and the Prophetic Law
      (pp. 3-32)

      In 1973, Eric Gans wrote that René Girard’s research in anthropology seemed to offer an “Archimedean point” from which the human sciences could one day be rethought.² Gans may have underestimated the case. For what has occurred since Girard began writing in the early 1960s is a veritable explosion of interest in his work in all major fields of Western inquiry. By the end of the 1970s, Girardian thinking had gained a foothold in literary studies, classical studies, anthropology, psychoanalysis, and religious studies.³ More recently, the “mimetic hypothesis” has begun to be extended to fields less commonly associated with the...

    • A Jewish-Christian Dialogue
      (pp. 33-56)

      René Girard’s theory of the uniqueness of Christianity is based upon the theory of the innocent victim. Jesus of Nazareth for Girard is not simply another hero of Greek tragedy who becomes an enemy twin of everyone. Jesus does nothing violent and yet is willing to die to reveal the arbitrariness of scapegoat violence, the inefficaciousness of the sacrificial expulsion about which the Hebrew prophets have been speaking, as part of a structurative process which may once have galvanized primitive culture but which has now become, in the modern context, little short of murder.

      But a careful examination of Isaiah...

    • al lo-chamas ’asah (Although He Had Done No Violence): René Girard and the Innocent Victim
      (pp. 57-76)

      This essay has three parts. In the first, I address the concern Willard Swartley expressed when he invited me to participate in the conference from which this material emerged: “I know that one of the liabilities in biblical scholarship appropriating Girard’s work is a potential scapegoating effect of Christians toward Jews. I hope this can be resisted or, if not, that it can be explained as an inherent weakness of his contribution.”

      In the second, I turn to an examination of Second Isaiah (52:13–53:12) in which I suggest some of the fundamental similarities of Jewish Scripture to Christian Scripture...

    • Response by René Girard and Reply to René Girard
      (pp. 77-92)

      Unfortunately, I could not attend the symposium at which the papers in the present volume were first presented and discussed. When Professor Willard Swartley, able organizer of this event as well as editor of its proceedings and a participant, kindly sent me all the manuscripts and invited me to comment on them, I was confronted with a difficult choice. The quality of all these contributions is such that I wanted to say something about each. Such a course, however, would limit my observations to statements so brief and inconsequential that they would do justice neither to the individual papers nor...


    • The End of Sacrifice: Reading René Girard and the Hebrew Bible
      (pp. 95-116)

      At a moment when René Girard’s work is beginning to be known by a significantly larger public, a number of us who have been his students or colleagues for a number of years have begun to ask about the dimensions of its impact upon us, in particular, the way it has shaped our own approaches.¹

      For me, the question has discernible and entirely practical implications. In 1983, as an assistant professor of English at the University of Michigan (and recent PhD student of René Girard in the Department of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo), I...

    • From Sacrificial Violence to Responsibility: The Education of Moses in Exodus 2–4
      (pp. 117-138)

      The word “education,” of course, comes from the Latin,educare, meaning “to lead out” or “to bring up,” and both its Latinate morphology and the semantic value it assumes in English reflect its peculiar history. To “lead out” implies in the first place leadership, which is to say a relationship between one designated as a “leader” and another (or others) designated as the “led.” The notion of leadership also entails a movement through which the leader propels the led, namely, from a region designated as “inside” to another designated as “outside.”

      Within the Western context, which is to say, within...


    • Reading Religion, Literature, and the End of Desire: Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque at Fifty
      (pp. 141-148)

      ReadingMensonge romantique et vérité romanesqueagain after fifty years, it is hard to forget the thrill of first encounters. “You know, Sancho, that Amadis of Gaul is the most perfect example of knight errantry, of knight chivalry, that ever was.” Cervantes wrote these words? InDon Quixote? It is all about borrowing one’s desires from others, not only in the limited sense of duplicating or copying, but as Aristotle describes our relation to poetics in general, or the Greeks spoke of their relation to Homer? Cervantes’s massive novel is suddenly readable in an entirely new fashion. It is not...

    • “Nothing Extenuate”: Love, Jealousy, and Reading in Shakespeare’s Othello
      (pp. 149-166)

      I should say at the outset that I have a particularly personal relation to this play. When I first started to write my doctoral dissertation with René Girard at suny Buffalo in 1972, it was on Shakespeare’sOthellothat I started to write, although, in the end, when I turned in my dissertation, I submitted an essay on Sophocles’sOedipus Tyrannus.

      I should also say as I begin that I encountered in the writing of this essay a problem very much like the problem I found in writing my dissertation—namely, that I had too much to say. If I...


    • Reading Halachically and Aggadically: A Response to Reuven Kimelman
      (pp. 169-186)

      Professor Kimelman’s talk is a hard act to follow. I also find myself in a difficult situation because this is the first moment in our gathering in which someone who is genuinely from outside the cov&r group has come in to speak to us. So there is always the potential for the activation of the processes of the sacred that we know all too well. We’ll try to resist that activation, however, and I will attempt to offer my response to Professor Kimelman’s paper with humor, although I may not always be entirely successful in my efforts.

      Professor Reuven Kimelman’s...

    • The Self and Other People: Reading Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation with René Girard and Emmanuel Levinas
      (pp. 187-200)

      One of the “hot” topics in conflict resolution studies over the past thirty years or so has been the introduction of the idea of reconciliation.² The idea behind it is that the resolution of conflict remains temporary as long as we focus exclusively upon the symptomatic issues at hand and that only if we step back and look more broadly at the people involved and the larger contexts in which they live and work can it be made permanent—and thus something like reconciliation becomes possible. In this expanding contextual understanding, the work of René Girard has assumed special importance....

    • From the Sacred to the Holy: René Girard, Emmanuel Levinas, and Substitution
      (pp. 201-228)

      I want to begin with this quote from Levinas, from the preface to the second (augmented) edition ofDe Dieu qui vient à l’idée(Paris: Vrin, 1986) which appeared no later than 1986:

      This work, which attempts to find the traces of the coming of God to mind [la venue de Dieu à l’idée], of his descent upon our lips and his inscription in books, limits itself to the point at which, thanks to the upwelling of the human within being, there can be an interruption or suspension of the impenitent perseverance of being in its being, that of universal...

    • Back to the Future: The Prophetic and the Apocalyptic in Jewish and Christian Settings
      (pp. 229-242)

      It has often been said that Judaism is about prophetic thinking and Christianity about apocalyptic thinking, and there is, of course, much truth to that claim. But if Judaism reads prophetically, I would maintain, it does so necessarily in the wake of disaster: in order to understand the steps leading up to it, and to foresee new ones lest one fall prey to them accidentally. And that if Christianity reads apocalyptically, it too is disaster-based and already premised upon prophetic understandings of both what has passed and what is coming down the road.

      In other words, that the two, in...

  9. Conclusions: Reading René Girard
    (pp. 243-258)

    On the 15th of April in 2011, in a symposium on “René Girard and World Religions,” conducted at the University of California at Berkeley, I delivered a paper on the topic of “Judaism and the Exodus from Archaic Religion.” The planning for the meeting was unique in a number of ways. Girardians had for a long time gathered to share ideas and meet new people from other disciplines and theoretical orientations. And on a number of occasions smaller groups had gathered more or less spontaneously—often at the annual meeting of the aar/sbl. For a few years already Girard’s personal...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 259-278)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-290)
  12. Index
    (pp. 291-296)