Literary and Critical Theory René Girard
by
Wolfgang Palaver
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 June 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0098

Introduction

René Noël Théophile Girard (b. 25 December 1923 in Avignon, d. 4 November 2015 in Stanford) was a French-American cultural anthropologist who discovered in the works of European novelists like Cervantes, Flaubert, Stendhal, Proust, and Dostoevsky the important impact of imitative desire on human relations. This insight became the basis for his mimetic theory, an anthropological approach that has not only helped to interpret literature, but has also become a theoretical tool to understand the development of human culture and particularly the role of religion in it. By distinguishing between the sacred of early religions and the holy as the core of the Judeo-Christian tradition, mimetic theory provides a theory of religion that contributes also to a better understanding of the post-Axial religions. Mimetic theory, however, reaches far beyond literature and religion, as its application in fields like anthropology, psychology, theology, and history as well as political and economic theory shows. Similar to the broad outreach of mimetic theory, also Girard himself entered many different scholarly disciplines. He studied medieval and modern history before he entered fields like literary criticism, religious and classical studies, and biblical literature. In 1947, he graduated with a dissertation on marriage and private life in 15th-century Avignon as an archiviste-paléographe from the École des Chartes in Paris. Soon afterward, he left for the United States to study contemporary history at Indiana University, where he received his PhD with a dissertation on “American Opinion on France, 1940–1943” in 1950. After working as an instructor of French literature at Duke University (1952) and as an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College (1953–1957), he held professorships at Johns Hopkins University (1957–1968; 1976–1981), in the Department of English at SUNY Buffalo (1986–1976), and finally at Stanford University (1981–1995). He received honorary degrees and awards from many different universities and academic institutions and was elected in 2005 to the Académie française. His mimetic theory consists mainly of four stages: (1) mimetic desire as he discovered it in great literature; (2) the scapegoat mechanism as the origin of human culture and early religions; (3) his theory of religion, which distinguishes between the sacred of early religions and the holiness that characterized the Judeo-Christian tradition; and (4) finally his apocalyptic view of history, which started with a chapter on Dostoevsky in his first book and culminated in his reflections on Clausewitz’s theory of war in his last book.

General Overviews

Biographies, introductions, and commemorative publications provide an overview of Girard’s life, his work, and his unfolding of mimetic theory.

Biographies and Introductions

Besides The Girard Reader collecting key chapters from Girard’s most important books and articles, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origin of Culture. With Pierpaolo Antonello at João Cezar de Castro Rocha, a lengthy interview with Girard at the time of the conclusion of his teaching career at Stanford in 1995, and a first biography (Haven 2018), there are several English introductions to Girard’s mimetic theory that provide alongside short biographical sketches also an overview of his work (Golsan 1993, Fleming 2004, Kirwan 2004, Palaver 2013, Warren 2013, Cayley and Girard 2019). In addition to these general overviews, Ramond 2009 provides a French vocabulary of Girard’s key terms. The Girard Reader and the listed introductions follow roughly Girard’s own division of mimetic theory into three parts relating to three of his most important books: (1) Mimetic desire or mediated desire described in Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure from 1961 (cited under Mimetic Desire and Literature); (2) the scapegoat mechanism as the origin of human culture and religion in Violence and the Sacred from 1972 (cited under The Sacred of Early Religions); and (3) the biblical difference in contrast to early religions as it was unfolded in Things Hidden from 1978 (cited under Biblical Difference).

  • Cayley, David, and René Girard. The Ideas of René Girard: An Anthropology of Religion and Violence. Toronto: David Cayley, 2019.

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    This book includes five nearly hour-long interviews with Girard conducted by the Canadian writer and broadcaster David Cayley and aired under the title “The Scapegoat: The Ideas of René Girard” by CBC Radio-Canada in March 2001. The interviews provide a good overview of mimetic theory. Friends and close collaborators of Girard like Sandor Goodhart, James Alison, Gil Bailie, Robert Hamerton-Kelly, and Paul Dumouchel also contributed.

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    • Fleming, Chris. René Girard: Violence and Mimesis. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2004.

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      The book—written by a philosopher with a good overview of post-structural and postmodern theories—introduces Girard’s mimetic theory by trying to offer far more an elucidation than an evaluation. One of its strengths is that it clearly highlights Girard’s resistance against a purely secular reading of his theory. The last chapter examines some applications of Girard’s work in a quite diverse array of disciplinary contexts.

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      • Girard, René. Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origin of Culture. With Pierpaolo Antonello at João Cezar de Castro Rocha. London: Continuum, 2008.

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        Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, two literary scholars, interviewed Girard after he became an emeritus at Stanford University in 1995, providing an update, twenty years on, of Girard’s overall program as it appeared in Things Hidden (in Biblical Difference). It starts with a biographical part, gives an overview of the main topics of mimetic theory, and highlights especially Girard’s understanding of mimetic theory as a part of evolutionary theory.

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        • Golsan, Richard J. René Girard and Myth: An Introduction. Theorists of Myth 7. New York: Garland, 1993.

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          This book was the first English monography introducing critically Girard’s mimetic theory with a special emphasis on his theory of myth, which is discussed in relation to mythologists like Claude Lévi-Strauss and Otto Rank. It includes a chapter on Girard’s critics, an interview in which he responds to his feminist critics, his reading of a Venda myth from Africa, and an extensive bibliography (pp. 181–237).

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          • Haven, Cynthia L. Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2018.

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            This is the first biography about Girard’s life and his unfolding of mimetic theory. It covers his formative years in France and the evolution of his thoughts during his academic career at different universities in the United States. Haven talked to several colleagues of Girard in different disciplines, complementing Girard’s own writings in a helpful way. A chronology (pp. 283–290) provides a short overview of Girard’s life and work.

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            • Kirwan, Michael. Discovering Girard. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2004.

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              The book is a short introduction into Girard’s mimetic theory written by a Catholic theologian who was also trained in English literature. It is compact and easy to read, and reflects in addition on Girard’s method and on objections against mimetic theory as well as on its future.

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              • Palaver, Wolfgang. René Girard’s Mimetic Theory. Translated by Gabriel Borrud. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.

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                This is the English translation of a German introduction to Girard’s mimetic theory that was originally published in 2003, augmented and revised in 2008. Besides its focus on the three main parts of mimetic theory by using many examples from German literature, it discusses Girard’s work in the context of recent debates about religion and modernity, and addresses political implications of mimetic theory and its relation to gender.

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                • Ramond, Charles. Le vocabulaire de René Girard. 2d ed. Vocabulaire de . . . Paris: Ellipses, 2009.

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                  This French vocabulary explains the key terms used in Girard’s mimetic theory. It was originally published in 2005, augmented and revised in 2009.

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                  • Warren, James. Compassion or Apocalypse? A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of René Girard. Lanham, MD: John Hunt, 2013.

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                    This introduction into mimetic theory focuses strongly on Girard’s interpretation of biblical texts; after Part 1 (Mimesis) and Part 2 (The Scapegoat), Part 3 emphasizes the apocalypticism that comes along with the biblical weakening of the violent sacred (Compassion or Apocalypse).

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                    • Williams, James G., ed. The Girard Reader. New York: Crossroad, 1996.

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                      This work is the only collection of key chapters from Girard’s most important books and articles comprising the three main parts of mimetic theory. It also includes a biographical sketch, a chapter on Girard’s engagement with the work of Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche, and a bibliography of Girard’s books, contributions to collective works, and articles in French and English as of May 1996 (pp. 295–303).

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                      Commemorative Publications

                      Girard’s legacy was commemorated over the years in special issues of journals as well as in books dedicated to life and work of this thinker. Several journals published special issues dedicated to mimetic theory (see for a detailed list of articles: Golsan 1993 in Biographies and Introductions, pp. 199–209). In this section the most important special issues published in English are listed: Diacritics (1978), Semeia (1985), Religion and Literature (2011), Journal of Religion and Violence (2013), and Journal of International Political Theory (2015). Two books (Juilland 1986; Goodhart, et al. 2009) were explicitly published as Festschriften; two others (Dumouchel 1988, Anspach 2008) were dedicated to the work of Girard.

                      • Anspach, Mark R., ed. René Girard. Cahiers de l’Herne 89. Paris: L’Herne, 2008.

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                        After Girard became a member of the Académie française in 2005, the French publishing house L’Herne decided to publish a book on Girard in its famous collection “Cahiers de L’Herne,” which is dedicated to great thinkers in literature, philosophy, and poetry. The issue on Girard contains original and translated contributions by Girard himself, abridged letter exchanges with Pierre Pachet and Raymund Schwager, and contributions by friends as well as critical discussants.

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                        • Astell, Ann, and J. A. Jackson, eds. Special Issue: “Deceit, Desire, and the Novel” Fifty Years Later—The Religious Dimension. Religion and Literature 43.3 (2011): 135–208.

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                          This special issue published in Autumn 2011 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Girard’s first book Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (in Mimetic Desire and Literature) and comprises essays by friends and collaborators of Girard that discuss religious dimensions recognizable in his first book.

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                          • Brighi, Elisabetta, and Antonio Cerella, eds. Special Issue: Mimetic Theory and International Studies. Journal of International Political Theory 11.1 (2015).

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                            This special issue of the Journal of International Political Theory introduces René Girard’s mimetic theory in the field of international studies. It presents mimetic theory within the field of international relations comparing it with political realism, rethinks the relationship between religion and violence in international relations, and offers insights from mimetic theory into political issues like biopolitics of security, terrorism, or sacrifice.

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                            • Dumouchel, Paul, ed. Violence and Truth: On the Work of René Girard. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988.

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                              This collection of essays is an abridged translation of Violence et vérité: Colloque de Cérisy autour de René Girard (Paris: B. Grasset, 1985), the outcome of a conference on Girard’s work at the Centre Culturel International de Cérisy-la-Salle in June 1983. The essays are gathered from a wide range of disciplines (anthropology, aesthetics, economics, and theology) and engage critically with Girard’s theory, especially with his perspective on Christianity.

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                              • Goodhart, Sandor, Jørgen Jørgensen, Tom Ryba, and James G. Williams, eds. For René Girard: Essays in Friendship and in Truth. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009.

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                                This book followed Girard’s entrance into the Académie française in 2005 and contains essays by scholars who have applied mimetic theory in their own work over many years. The book is not so much celebrating or explaining Girard’s work but bearing witness to it by showing how it has influenced the work of these scholars coming from theology, religious studies, literary studies, philosophy, or psychological studies.

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                                • Guggenberger, Wilhelm, and Wolfgang Palaver, eds. Special Issue: René Girard’s Mimetic Theory and Its Contribution to the Study of Religion and Violence. Journal of Religion and Violence 1.2 (2013).

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                                  This special issue of the Journal of Religion and Violence is dedicated to Girard’s mimetic theory and its contribution to the field of religion and violence. Besides an introduction into mimetic theory on violence and religion, this issue discusses the letter exchange between Girard and Raymund Schwager on sacrifice, suicide bombing, religion and violence in international relations, and Girard’s apocalyptic view of history.

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                                  • Harari, Josué V., ed. Special Issue: The Work of René Girard. Diacritics 8.1 (1978).

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                                    The first special issue on the work of René Girard in English appeared in the journal Diacritics. Besides an interview with Girard, and contributions by friends and collaborators of Girard like Michel Serres, Sandor Goodhart, and Jean-Michel Oughourlian, this issue includes also critical engagements by Philipp Lacoue-Labarth and Hayden White.

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                                    • Juilland, Alphonse, ed. To Honor René Girard: Presented on the Occasion of His Sixtieth Birthday by Colleagues, Students, and Friends. Stanford French and Italian Studies 34. Saratoga, CA: Anma Libri, 1986.

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                                      Colleagues of the Department of French and Italian Studies at Stanford University turned a special issue of the Stanford French and Italian Studies into a Festschrift celebrating Girard’s sixtieth birthday and highlighting his reclaiming of the social sense of great literature. The book includes contributions in French and English and addresses engagements with mimetic theory in disciplines like literary theory, biblical studies, sociology, and social as well as political philosophy.

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                                      • McKenna, Andrew, ed. Special Issue: René Girard and Biblical Studies. Semeia 33 (1985).

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                                        Semeia was a journal of the Society of Biblical Literature that focused on biblical criticism. It dedicated its Issue No. 33 to “René Girard and Biblical Studies.” Besides an essay by Girard on the Book of Job, it includes articles by early collaborators of Girard like Sandor Goodhart, Robert Hamerton-Kelly, Eric Gans, and Raymund Schwager.

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                                        Primary Texts

                                        René Girard’s mimetic theory was mainly developed in three major steps. In its beginning Girard discovered in some of the great European novels that human beings are not so much autonomous actors but orient their desires according to the desire of others. Human desire is essentially imitative or mimetic. After reading Greek tragedies and anthropological as well as mythological studies, Girard was led in a second step to the discovery that early religions and human culture originated in a nonconscious, collective scapegoat mechanism that overcame internal rivalries in early human groups. In a third step Girard gained the insight that myths coming along with early religions represent the view of the persecutors of the founding murder, whereas the key texts in the Judeo-Christian Bible side with the perspective of the victims of collective persecution. From his first book onward Girard was also always interested in apocalyptic thinking, which he recognized as a consequence of the biblical weakening of the sacred. His last book, Battling to the End (in Apocalyptic View of History), puts this interest in an apocalyptic view of history to the foreground. Recognizing this as a fourth stage of mimetic theory allows the presentation of Girard’s publications according to these four stages of mimetic theory.

                                        Mimetic Desire and Literature

                                        Reading the great novels of Cervantes, Flaubert, Stendhal, Proust, and Dostoevsky led Girard to the discovery that human beings relate mimetically to each other. Human desire is essentially borrowed desire, desire imitating the desire of others. In the beginning he used the term “mediation” to describe the dependence of one’s desire on the desire of the other. Later, he instead preferred the terms “imitative desire” or “mimetic desire” to describe this basic feature of human relations. Reading and interpreting literature remained at the center of Girard’s work throughout his life. He, however, was not interested in literature as such but in its ability to enlighten our understanding of human beings and their mimetic relationships. Girard appreciated literature insofar as it understood the importance and possible entanglements of mimetic desire. His mimetic anthropology originated in his reading of literature. In addition to the five authors discussed in his first book Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, and in regard to Proust and Dostoevsky in Proust and in Resurrection from the Underground, he later focused in “To double business bound” and in When These Things Begin (in Biblical Difference) also on novels by Albert Camus and Virginia Woolf. In his literary studies, he did not confine himself to the genre of novels but discovered in the dramatic work of William Shakespeare similar insights as he gained from the novelists. His later book on Shakespeare, A Theater of Envy, is as important as his first book, which highlighted the anthropological truth of great novels. Mimesis and Theory provides an overview of Girard’s literary essays from 1953 to 2005. Anorexia and Mimetic Desire discusses eating disorders with the help of Franz Kafka.

                                        • Girard, René. Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure. Translated by Yvonne Freccero. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966.

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                                          This book is the translation of Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque (Paris: B. Grasset, 1961). The French title underlines Girard’s discovery in the novels of Cervantes, Flaubert, Stendhal, Proust, and Dostoyevsky that human beings base their own desires on the desires of others, in contrast to the romantic lie about the autonomy of mankind. The novelistic truth resulted from the conversion of these authors through which they overcame their own egoistic pride.

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                                          • Girard, René. “To double business bound”: Essays on Literature, Mimesis, and Anthropology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.

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                                            This book, Girard’s first in English, includes essays on Camus, Dante, Victor Hugo, Deleuze, and Guattari as well as on Nietzsche, Wagner, and Lévi-Strauss. Besides his mimetic reading of literature, he also dealt with topics of myth and psychology. Some of these essays were translated from French; some were original English contributions.

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                                            • Girard, René. A Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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                                              This is Girard’s only English monograph that contains a detailed analysis of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. Girard displays in this book that the essential elements of mimetic theory (mimetic desire, scapegoat mechanism, and the biblical difference) are also found in the work of the English playwright; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Troilus and Cressida, Julius Caesar, and A Winter’s Tale are discussed in particular depth.

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                                              • Girard, René. Mimesis and Theory: Essays on Literature and Criticism, 1953–2005. Edited by Robert Doran. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.

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                                                This collection of translated French and original English essays in literary criticism covers a timespan of more than fifty years and includes articles before Girard’s discovery of mimetic theory in the late 1950s as well as later applications of it. Besides pieces on Saint-John Perse, Valéry, Hugo, Marivaux—his favorite novelists—and Shakespeare, it also includes his engagement with Jean-Paul Sartre, whose philosophy had an influence on Girard’s early work.

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                                                • Girard, René. Resurrection from the Underground: Feodor Dostoevsky. Translated by James G. Williams. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2012.

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                                                  This book contains the translation of Girard’s French book Dostoievski: Du double à l’unité (Paris: Plon, 1963) as well as an English postface (“Mimetic Desire in the Underground”) that was originally published in its first English edition (New York: Crossroad, 1997). Girard highlights Dostoevsky’s understanding of mimetic desire and also makes his own interest in Christianity more visible by structuring the book according to Dante’s Divine Comedy.

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                                                  • Girard, René. Anorexia and Mimetic Desire. Translated by Mark R. Anspach. Breakthroughs in Mimetic Theory. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.

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                                                    The essay that gave this small book its title is Girard’s attempt to explain eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia with the help of his thesis about mimetic desire. By referring to Franz Kafka’s short story “A Hunger Artist,” he included also an enlightening literary example. The book comprises a foreword by the psychiatrist Jean-Michel Oughourlian, an introduction by editor Mark Anspach, and a conversation with Girard.

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                                                    • Girard, René, ed. Proust: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1962.

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                                                      Girard’s only edited book, this is a collection of critical essays by different Proust scholars, to which he himself contributed the introduction, which summarizes the other contributions and also presents his own reading of Proust as he developed it in his first book, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure.

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                                                      The Sacred of Early Religions

                                                      In the 1960s, Girard began to focus on ancient Greek tragedies and myths as well as on anthropological and religious studies to understand the meaning of myths, rites, and prohibitions characterizing early religions. Girard used the terms “primitive” or “archaic” for what is today called “early” or “pre-Axial” religions. Among ancient Greek authors, he dealt especially with Sophocles and Euripides, and among modern scholars, he engaged with Lévi-Strauss’s structuralism and Freud’s psychoanalyses. Girard discovered a mimetic solution to internal crises of tribal societies that stemmed from mimetic rivalries. He described this solution as a nonconscious and collective mechanism persecuting a single victim. These groups tended to kill or expel one of its members as a scapegoat, blaming him or her to having caused the crisis. By mimetically uniting against one of its members, these groups were able to restore peace among themselves. A double transference that attributed both the crisis as well as its solution to the victims turned them into deities who were seen as absolutely negative and positive at the same time. This scapegoat or victimage mechanism is, according to Girard, the origin of the sacred that characterizes early religions and originated human culture. It contains violence in both understandings of the term “contain.” The violence of all against all is overcome by a violence of all against one. It is for this reason that Girard claimed that violence is the “heart and secret soul of the sacred” (Violence and the Sacred, p. 31). He understood this mechanism as a genetic scheme that can lead to different cultural institutions. It explains ritual sacrifices and prohibitions as key elements of early religions as well as the death penalty or the institution of sacred kingship as typical cultural developments at later stages. The Oedipus myth is Girard’s main example to explain the scapegoat mechanism. Oedipus was blamed for causing the plague in Thebes but turned into a venerated benefactor after his expulsion. Both Athens and Thebes longed competitively for Oedipus’s future blessings. This section contains not only Girard’s seminal work Violence and the Sacred but also Oedipus Unbound and his contribution in Macksey and Donato 1979, which show how his reading of the Oedipus myth evolved. It also includes in Hamerton-Kelly 1987 his discussion with scholars that developed alternative approaches. Sacrifice is a later book of Girard that discusses his theory of the sacred in regard to the religious traditions in ancient India.

                                                      • Girard, René. Violence and the Sacred. Translated by Patrick Gregory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977.

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                                                        This seminal work about the sacred that characterizes early religions is the English translation of Girard’s La violence et le sacré (Paris: B. Grasset, 1972). Girard discusses especially Sophocles’ two tragedies about Oedipus and The Bacchae by Euripides. Among modern theorists, he especially engages with Claude Lévi-Strauss and Sigmund Freud to explain his own understanding of the scapegoat mechanism, which he views as the origin of early religion and human culture.

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                                                        • Girard, René. Oedipus Unbound: Selected Writings on Rivalry and Desire. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.

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                                                          This collection assembles some of Girard’s essays about the Oedipus myth. Three of them are translated from early French articles in which Girard started to unbound the Oedipal triangle from its Freudian framework, replacing it with his own analysis of mimetic desire and rivalry. It was this early work that led finally to Girard’s thesis about the scapegoat mechanism.

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                                                          • Girard, René. Sacrifice. Translated by Matthew Pattillo and David Dawson. Breakthroughs in Mimetic Theory. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2011.

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                                                            This book is the translation of Le sacrifice (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2003), consisting of lectures that Girard gave at the Bibliothèque nationale de France reflecting for the first time on religious traditions in ancient India. It deals especially with Vedic understandings of sacrifice and shows also that at the end of the Vedic period, particularly in the Vedānta, hints of an awareness of the sacrificial mechanism appear, though not as clearly or as culturally impactful as in biblical texts.

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                                                            • Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G., ed. Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987.

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                                                              Both Girard and Burkert published their seminal works on violence and religion independently of each other in 1972. Violence and the Sacred and Burkert’s Homo Necans share a focus on violence and ritual sacrifice without agreeing on the basic assumptions of their different approaches. In Fall 1983, they meet with Jonathan Z. Smith, a historian of religion, to discuss their different approaches. Girard’s paper is on “Generative Scapegoating.”

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                                                              • Macksey, Richard, and Eugenio Donato, eds. The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1979.

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                                                                This book is the second edition of The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man from 1970, which was the outcome of a symposium with this title that Girard organized with his colleagues in October 1966 at Johns Hopkins University. It brought French theory to the United States. Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida were among the many famous participants. Girard contributed an early piece on the Oedipus myth.

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                                                                The Biblical Difference

                                                                Girard was able to demonstrate that his theory about the sacred explains many myths and rituals. When he turned to biblical texts, however, in Things Hidden, Scapegoat, Job, or I See Satan, he discovered that the main passages are not like early myths telling the story of a collective murder from the perspective of the murderers, but rather they side with the victim and expose the violence of the persecutors. Already in very old texts we can find passages expressing a movement away from a world that conducted human sacrifices. The most important text in this regard is the story of Abraham (Genesis 22), who was going to sacrifice his son Isaac until God asked him to offer a ram instead. Other texts challenge the mythic pattern of early religions more deeply by siding directly with victims of collective persecution. Penitential psalms, the dialogues in the book of Job, and passages in the writing prophets tell us about the collective violence against an innocent victim. From a Christian perspective, the most important passages in the Bible in this regard are the passion narratives in the Gospels. Like mythical texts, these narratives talk about collective violence against a single individual. For Girard, the Gospels, unlike pre-Axial myths, do not side with the persecutors but reveal the innocence of the scapegoat Jesus. From a Girardian point of view, Judaism and even more so Christianity stand in opposition to early religions. These religions are not rooted in the scapegoat mechanism but expose it. Girard claimed that the biblical perspective achieved its final fulfillment in the Gospels of the New Testament. Many of his books listed in this section bear biblical verses as titles. Included in this list of books is also the letter exchange between Girard and the Swiss Jesuit Raymund Schwager (Girard and Schwager 2016), who convinced the French anthropologist to use the term “sacrifice” not only for the sacred of early religions but also for Jesus’ self-giving on the cross. In Girard’s contribution to Schwager’s Festschrift from 1995, which was later published in The One by Whom Scandal Comes, he explained the reasons for his early reluctance and why he finally agreed with his friend. When These Things Begin reflects on the social consequences of the biblical legacy. Girard and Berry 2015 contains a long interview about key passages in the Bible. Wissenschaft und christlicher Glaube discusses Christian faith and its relation to scientific knowledge.

                                                                • Girard, René. The Scapegoat. Translated by Yvonne Freccero. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

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                                                                  This book is the translation of Le bouc émissaire (Paris: B. Grasset, 1982), providing a historical analysis of how key biblical texts differ from myths and influenced our modern concern for victims. Girard starts with a discussion of medieval texts of persecution as an intermediary stage between myths and the Bible. It contains his most detailed analysis and parsing of a wide range of mythical types to reveal their roots in scapegoating.

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                                                                  • Girard, René. Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World: Research Undertaken in Collaboration with Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort. Translated by Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987a.

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                                                                    This book is the translation of Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde (Paris: B. Grasset, 1978)—a dialogue with the psychiatrists Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort)—in which Girard interprets for the first time also biblical texts. After summarizing his anthropology, Girard shows secondly that key texts in the Bible are not the result of the scapegoat mechanism but uncover it. The third part discusses Girard’s interdividual psychology.

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                                                                    • Girard, René. Job: The Victim of His People. Translated by Yvonne Freccero. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987b.

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                                                                      This book is the translation of La route antique des hommes pervers (Paris: B. Grasset, 1985), focusing exclusively on the Book of Job in the Bible. Girard broke with traditional readings of this book by concentrating solely on the dialogues between Job and his friends, concluding that Job is the scapegoat of his community, that his friends are his persecutors, and that their god is the projection of the community’s collective violence.

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                                                                      • Girard, René. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning. Translated by James G. Williams. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001.

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                                                                        This book is the translation of Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair (Paris: B. Grasset, 1999), in which Girard tries to evolve his anthropology from biblical thinking. He is chiefly concerned with producing an anthropological apologetics of the Judeo-Christian tradition, that is, an intellectually comprehensible verification of the uniqueness of the Bible and Christianity. At the heart of the work, one finds a comparative analysis of religious myths and the Judeo-Christian revelation.

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                                                                        • Girard, René. Wissenschaft und christlicher Glaube. Translated by Shivaun Heath. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2007.

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                                                                          This book was published on the occasion of the Dr. Leopold-Lucas-Award, which Girard received from the Faculty of Protestant Theology of the University of Tübingen (Germany) in 2006. His lecture “Knowledge and the Christian Faith” was published in this book in English as well as in German translation. Girard gave an outline of his understanding of Christian faith and how it is compatible with Darwinism.

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                                                                          • Girard, René. The One by Whom Scandal Comes. Translated by M. B. DeBevoise. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014a.

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                                                                            This book is the translation of Celui par qui le scandale arrive (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 2001), a collection of essays and an interview with the philosopher Maria Stella Barberi on biblical, anthropological, and philosophical topics. In one of the essays, Girard explains why he no longer refuses to use the term “sacrifice” for Jesus’ crucifixion. The other essays address the question of the genesis of interpersonal violence and the problem of Western ethnocentrism.

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                                                                            • Girard, René. When These Things Begin: Conversations with Michel Treguer. Translated by Trevor Cribben Merrill. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014b.

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                                                                              This book is the translation of Quand ces choses commenceront (Paris: Arléa, 1994), a book containing interviews with the journalist Michel Treguer that were conducted over ten years and focus on Girard’s apocalyptical reading of history. According to it, Judeo-Christian revelation forces mankind to make the ultimate choice between complete self-annihilation and a renunciation of mimetic rivalry and violence. Girard comments also on contemporary sociopolitical issues like democracy, nationalism, and feminism.

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                                                                              • Girard, René, and Steven E. Berry. Reading the Bible with Rene Girard: Conversations with Steven E. Berry. Lancaster, PA: JDL Press, 2015.

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                                                                                This book is a transcription of video interviews that Reverend Steven Berry conducted not long before Girard’s last book was published in 2007. It deals with those biblical and theological topics that were most dear to Girard. Besides a chapter on Nietzsche and the world of today, it also includes a chapter on the Swiss theologian Raymund Schwager, who was a close friend of Girard and who died in 2004.

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                                                                                • Girard, René, and Raymund Schwager. René Girard and Raymund Schwager: Correspondence 1974–1991. Translated by Chris Fleming and Sheelah Treflé Hidden. Violence, Desire, and the Sacred 4. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.

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                                                                                  Raymund Schwager, a Catholic theologian who became a friend and collaborator of Girard in the 1970s, wrote between 1974 and 1991 more than fifty letters to Girard, who responded to almost all of them. This book is the translation of the original letter exchange in French, which was originally published in 2014. The most important part is their ongoing discussion about the use of the term “sacrifice” for Jesus’ crucifixion.

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                                                                                  Apocalyptic View of History

                                                                                  From his very first book, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (cited under Mimetic Desire and Literature), until his last book, Battling to the End, Girard showed a clear interest in apocalyptic thinking. In his first book this becomes visible in his chapter on Dostoyevsky (“The Dostoyevskian Apocalypse”). During the time that he worked on biblical texts, he was especially interested in the apocalyptic texts of the synoptic Gospels by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Girard never touched the last book of the New Testament, the Revelation to John, which is also called the Apocalypse due to its original Greek name. According to Girard, the apocalyptic texts of the synoptic Gospels express the possible violent consequences that may follow the biblical weakening of the age-old sacred. Wars or natural disasters that are described in these texts are not caused by divine intervention but are solely due to human rivalries and violence. Girard insisted therefore that the “apocalypse has to be taken out of fundamentalist hands” (Battling to the End, p. 48). Reflecting with the help of the German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz on French-German relations, on the two World Wars in the 20th century, and on our age of global terrorism and wars against terror led Girard to discuss in his last book the possibility of an end of the world caused by human self-destruction. It is for this reason that he dared to call this book an “apocalyptic book.” At first sight, this is a dark and pessimistic book; however, it does not fall outside a Christian understanding of history that cannot be separated from hope. Rays of hope become most visible in a chapter at the center of this book, in which Girard interprets the Christ-hymns of the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin that are also dealing with apocalyptic challenges. Several times Girard quotes the famous lines from Hölderlin’s hymn “Patmos”—the title refers to the Greek island on which the disciple John received his vision—that express hope in an apocalyptic world: “Where danger threatens/That which saves from it also grows.” In this book Girard distinguished also systematically and consistently between the sacred and the holy. The former is the offspring of the primordial scapegoat mechanism, the latter relates to God’s nonviolence. In Hamerton-Kelly 2007, Girard’s apocalyptic view of history is related to political thinkers like Carl Schmitt, Eric Voegelin, and Leo Strauss. Also, the discussion with Gianni Vattimo (Vattimo and Girard 2010) focused on Girard’s apocalypticism.

                                                                                  • Girard, René. Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre. Translated by Mary Baker. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                    This book is the translation of Achever Clausewitz (Paris: Carnets nord, 2007), which contains conversations with the French philosopher Benoît Chantre and discusses the work of the military theorist von Clausewitz. According to Girard, the weakening of the age-old sacred leads to an apocalyptic escalation of violence that Clausewitz discovered as the essence of war. With Hölderlin, Madame de Staël, and Pope Benedict XVI, Girard demanded a reconnection of faith and reason.

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                                                                                    • Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G., ed. Politics & Apocalypse. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                      This book is the outcome of a workshop with Girard that took place at Stanford University in June 2004 to discuss the apocalyptic implications of mimetic theory in relation to the works of political thinkers like Carl Schmitt, Eric Voegelin, and Leo Strauss. Girard’s own contribution (“The Evangelical Subversion of Myth”) addresses the biblical weakening of the age-old sacred that results in apocalyptic repercussions.

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                                                                                      • Vattimo, Gianni, and René Girard. Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith: A Dialogue. Edited by Pierpaolo Antonello, translated by William McCuaig. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.7312/vatt14828Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                        This book is a dialogue between Girard and the Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo. It includes a direct dialogue between them as well as papers addressed to each other. As the editor maintains in his introduction, this dialogue is closely connected to Girard’s apocalypticism. Whereas for Girard the biblical weakening of the sacred makes the apocalyptic texts of the synoptic Gospels plausible, Vattimo, a postmodern deconstructionist, recognizes a path away from ontotheology.

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                                                                                        Applications and Discussions of Mimetic Theory

                                                                                        Among the outstanding strengths of Girard’s mimetic theory has been its ongoing application and discussion in many different academic disciplines. Due to Girard’s own work, most publications are in the fields of theology, religious studies, and literary criticism. These sections, however, prove there are also significant publications in the fields of anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and political and economic theory. Not all relevant books can be listed, and therefore only a significant selection is presented in these sections.

                                                                                        Literary Theory and Film Studies

                                                                                        Due to Girard’s discovery of mimetic desire in great novels, there is an ongoing application and discussion of literature and increasingly also of films from the perspective of mimetic theory. See early collaborators of Girard like the Romanicist Cesáreo Bandera (University of North Carolina), from whom two books (Bandera 1994, Bandera 2006) are mentioned here, or first students like Andrew McKenna, who became professor of French language and literature at Loyola University and whose book (McKenna 1992) is the first in a long row concerned with their own mimetic studies of literature and literary theory. Johnsen 2003, Merrill 2013, Rocha 2015, and Lawtoo 2016 follow with their literary studies, mostly about authors not discussed by Girard himself. Alberg 2013 is an example for literary studies contributing to philosophical inquiries and Humbert 2017 provides a convincing study of film that also introduces mimetic theory to a larger audience. In Antonello and Webb 2015, Girard’s first book Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (in Mimetic Desire and Literature) is discussed fifty years after its original publication in France.

                                                                                        • Alberg, Jeremiah. Beneath the Veil of the Strange Verses: Reading Scandalous Texts. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.

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                                                                                          Using examples from philosophy (Plato, Rousseau, Nietzsche), literature (Dante, Flannery O’Connor), and the Bible, Jeremiah Alberg, a philosopher, discusses the strange phenomenon of our being easily scandalized by reading literature. With the help of Girard’s mimetic theory, he uncovers the deeper roots of our attraction to scandals and also shows how great literature may lead us beyond scandals and their entanglements with violence.

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                                                                                          • Antonello, Pierpaolo, and Heather Webb, eds. Mimesis, Desire, and the Novel: René Girard and Literary Criticism. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2015.

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                                                                                            Pierpaolo Antonello and Heather Webb, two literary critics, convened several conferences on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Girard’s Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (in Mimetic Desire and Literature), which was originally published in 1961. This book comprises essays on Girard’s first book that were presented by different authors at these conferences.

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                                                                                            • Bandera, Cesáreo. The Sacred Game: The Role of the Sacred in the Genesis of Modern Literary Fiction. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

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                                                                                              Bandera was an early collaborator of Girard who used mimetic theory for his own work on literature. In this book he reconstructs the development of our modern world—the genesis of modern literary fiction in particular—without submitting to secularization theory. The authors discussed in this book are Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Cervantes, Caldéron, Marx, and Blumenberg.

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                                                                                              • Bandera, Cesáreo. The Humble Story of Don Quixote: Reflections on the Birth of the Modern Novel. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                Girard’s first book started with an interpretation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Bandera, an early collaborator of Girard, provides in this book a much broader interpretation of this important work at the beginning of the modern novel.

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                                                                                                • Humbert, David. Violence in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock: A Study in Mimesis. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2017.

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                                                                                                  David Humbert, a professor of religious studies, parts in his examination of the roots of violence in Hitchcock’s narratives with Freudian and Lacanian readings by finding them not in human sexuality but in mimetic desire. He interprets seven key films with the help of Girard’s mimetic theory and explains topics like the double, the innocent victim, the wrong man, the transfer of guilt, and the scapegoat.

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                                                                                                  • Johnsen, William A. Violence and Modernism: Ibsen, Joyce, and Woolf. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003.

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                                                                                                    William Johnsen, a professor of English at Michigan State University, is the editor of Contagion (cited under Institutionalizations of Mimetic Theory) and the book series “Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture.” His book discusses the relationship between violence and modernism by interpreting the works of Ibsen, Joyce, and Woolf with the help of mimetic theory.

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                                                                                                    • Lawtoo, Nidesh. Conrad’s Shadow: Catastrophe, Mimesis, Theory. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2016.

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                                                                                                      Nidesh Lawtoo, an assistant professor of philosophy and English at KU Leuven in Belgium, emphasizes in this book on Joseph Conrad’s novels that readers should become aware of two sides of mimesis, a dark one that involves the escalation of violence, and a luminous one that promotes communal survival and postcolonial reconciliation.

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                                                                                                      • McKenna, Andrew J. Violence and Difference: Girard, Derrida, and Deconstruction. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                        Since Girard and his colleagues brought French theory in 1966 to the United States (Macksey and Donato 1979 [cited under The Sacred of Early Religions), there has been an ongoing debate between Derrida’s deconstruction and Girard’s mimetic theory. This book discusses these two approaches, their similarities and their differences.

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                                                                                                        • Merrill, Trevor Cribben. The Book of Imitation and Desire: Reading Milan Kundera with René Girard. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

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                                                                                                          The Czech writer Milan Kundera appreciates Girard’s work, calling Deceit, Desire and the Novel the best book on the art of the novel. Trevor Merrill shows in his reading of the works of Kundera that already the early work of the Czech writer—before he read Girard—is full of insights into mimetic desire.

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                                                                                                          • Rocha, João Cezar de Castro. Machado de Assis: Toward a Poetics of Emulation. Translated by Flora Thomson-DeVeaux. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2015.

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                                                                                                            João Cezar de Castro Rocha, a professor of comparative literature at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, provides in this book a careful study of the work of the Brazilian author Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, whose novels are characterized by a constant emulation of European models.

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                                                                                                            Religious Studies and Theology

                                                                                                            This section consists of a huge variety of different fields that were in some way all addressed by Girard during his unfolding of mimetic theory. He started in his book Violence and the Sacred (cited in The Sacred of Early Religions) with his inquiry of early religions. Afterward, he turned toward biblical texts and touched more and more on theological questions. One of the highly discussed questions was Girard’s own struggle with his understanding of sacrifice, which also caused discussions among those who applied or criticized his approach. With his book Sacrifice (cited in The Sacred of Early Religions), which engaged with ancient Indian religion, Girard himself reached beyond Judaism and Christianity. Today, several scholars discuss Islam with the help of mimetic theory. Girard’s approach has also become a helpful tool to discuss how religion relates to either violence or peace.

                                                                                                            Religious Studies

                                                                                                            Girard’s study of early religions as an offspring of the scapegoat mechanism and also his distinction between early religions (sacred) and the Judeo-Christian tradition (holy) have become part of ongoing discussions in the large field of religious studies. Dawson 2013 provides a lexicography of the term “scapegoat” and the history of its understanding. A comprehensive discussion of Girard’s take on religion can be found in Alison and Palaver 2017.

                                                                                                            • Alison, James, and Wolfgang Palaver, eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Mimetic Theory and Religion. New York: Palgrave, 2017.

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                                                                                                              This handbook provides an extensive overview of all the religious and theological topics that relate to Girard’s understanding of mimetic theory. Seventy concise contributions from authors with different disciplinary backgrounds engage with the violent origins of culture, the meaning of ritual, the Abrahamitic legacy, and the conjunction of theology and anthropology, as well as secularization, science, and terrorism. It engages also with alternative accounts and critiques of Girard.

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                                                                                                              • Dawson, David. Flesh Becomes Word: A Lexicography of the Scapegoat or, the History of an Idea. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.

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                                                                                                                This book provides a lexicography of the term “scapegoat” and the history of its understanding. The term was first used in the book Leviticus of the Hebrew Bible to describe an ancient ritual. Girard’s understanding is much closer to the modern use of this term, which describes an innocent victim of collective persecution. His concept of the scapegoat mechanism as a nonconscious mechanism has to be distinguished from the ritual.

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                                                                                                                Biblical Studies

                                                                                                                Girard’s interpretation of biblical texts that are at the center of the third part of his mimetic theory—his theory of religion, which distinguishes between the sacred and the holy—caused several biblical scholars to apply mimetic theory themselves to the Bible in its entirety or to parts of it. Simultaneously with Girard’s first book on the Bible, Things Hidden (in Biblical Difference), Schwager 1987 interpreted key biblical texts from the perspective of Girard’s anthropology. Williams 1991 on the Bible as a whole, Hamerton-Kelly 1992 on Paul, Hamerton-Kelly 1994 on the Gospel of Mark, and Finamore 2009 on the Book of Revelation are examples of how biblical scholars have made use of mimetic theory. Alison 1996 reads the Bible with Girard’s eyes to regain a new understanding of eschatology, Swartley 2000 to contribute to peacemaking.

                                                                                                                • Alison, James. Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination. New York: Crossroad, 1996.

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                                                                                                                  Alison, who is a Catholic theologian, focuses in this book on the central mysteries of the Gospels: the passion and resurrection. He addresses the religious crisis of our contemporary world and recovers an eschatological sensibility that can strengthen hope.

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                                                                                                                  • Finamore, Stephen. God, Order and Chaos: René Girard and the Apocalypse. Paternoster Biblical Monographs. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.

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                                                                                                                    This book provides a critical introduction to Girard’s mimetic theory and applies it in order to interpret the Book of Revelation, a book that Girard—despite his interest in apocalyptic texts—never addressed in his own readings of the Bible.

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                                                                                                                    • Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G. Sacred Violence: Paul’s Hermeneutic of the Cross. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                      Robert Hamerton-Kelly, a New Testament scholar, provided in this book an interpretation of the writings of Saint Paul from the perspective of mimetic theory. He widened Girard’s take on the New Testament by discussing texts that had not been addressed by Girard himself.

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                                                                                                                      • Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G. The Gospel and the Sacred: Poetics of Violence in Mark. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

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                                                                                                                        Robert Hamerton-Kelly, a New Testament scholar, provided in this book a careful mimetic reading of the whole Gospel of Mark, the oldest Gospel in the New Testament.

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                                                                                                                        • Schwager, Raymund. Must There Be Scapegoats? Violence and Redemption in the Bible. Translated by Maria L. Assad. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987.

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                                                                                                                          This book is the translation of Brauchen wir einen Sündenbock? (Munich: Kösel, 1978), which interpreted the relation between violence and redemption in the Bible with the help of mimetic theory. It was published in the very same year that Girard’s first book addressing biblical texts was released and shows how early on the Swiss Jesuit Schwager became a collaborator of Girard.

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                                                                                                                          • Swartley, Willard M., ed. Violence Renounced: René Girard, Biblical Studies and Peacemaking. Studies in Peace and Scripture 4. Telford, PA: Pandora Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                            This book contains several contributions by biblical scholars and theologians that discuss Girard’s understanding of biblical texts in order to strengthen religious efforts toward peacemaking.

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                                                                                                                            • Williams, James G. The Bible, Violence, and the Sacred: Liberation from the Myth of Sanctioned Violence. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

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                                                                                                                              James Williams, a biblical scholar (Syracuse University), used Girard’s mimetic theory to interpret how the Bible in its entirety relates to violence and how it liberates from the myth of sanctioned violence.

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                                                                                                                              Christian Theology

                                                                                                                              Christian theology belongs to those fields in which many scholars have started to apply and discuss mimetic theory. One of the earliest scholars was the Swiss Jesuit Raymund Schwager, who taught dogmatics at the University of Innsbruck. His concept of dramatic theology in Schwager 1999 is deeply influenced by mimetic theory. Also James Alison, a Catholic priest and independent scholar, became a follower of mimetic theory as a student. His many books, of which two are mentioned in this section (Alison 1998, Alison 2001), are for many Christians today the first introduction into mimetic theory. The English Jesuit Michael Kirwan belongs also to the group of theologians who have engaged with mimetic theory over many years (see Kirwan 2009, Kirwan and Treflé Hidden 2017). Scott Cowdell, an Anglican priest and theologian at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia, has more recently addressed mimetic theory in two theological monographs (Cowdell 2013, Cowdell 2018). Bartlett 2001 and Heim 2006 both focus on theologies of atonement; Kaplan 2016 belongs in the field of fundamental theology and reflects on Girard’s self-understanding as a Christian apologist.

                                                                                                                              • Alison, James. The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin through Easter Eyes. New York: Crossroad, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                This book is the edited version of Alison’s dissertation, which discusses the doctrine of original sin with the help of mimetic theory. It is an especially challenging book and a perfect example of resentment overcome, because its discussion of original sin is closely related to the author’s own struggle with homosexuality.

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                                                                                                                                • Alison, James. Faith beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                  Alison has become a leading Christian theologian working with Girard’s mimetic anthropology to address important theological issues that are discussed in the LGBT movement.

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                                                                                                                                  • Bartlett, Anthony W. Cross Purposes: The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                    This book examines with the help of Girard’s mimetic anthropology the violent history of the Christian theory of the atonement without overlooking the minority tradition that provides a way out of violence by emphasizing the compassion of Christ.

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                                                                                                                                    • Cowdell, Scott. René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013.

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                                                                                                                                      This book is the first systematic interpretation of René Girard’s approach to secular modernity. It discusses Christ’s impact on the development of modernity as well as Girard’s apocalyptic view of history. One chapter reflects on modern institutions like the state and the market to understand their role as restrainers of violence.

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                                                                                                                                      • Cowdell, Scott. René Girard and the Nonviolent God. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvpj78z6Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                        This book unfolds Girard’s significance for theology by taking up with critics such as Hans Urs von Balthasar, John Milbank, and Sarah Coakley and by developing his own dramatic theology alongside James Alison and Raymund Schwager. His five-act Girardian Theo-drama, which encompasses the evolutionary nature and pan-historical scope of mimetic theory, demonstrates convincingly how much Girard’s emphasis on God’s nonviolence can contribute to our theological debates of today.

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                                                                                                                                        • Heim, S. Mark. Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                          This book provides a theology of the cross by carefully and critically drawing on Girard’s mimetic theory. The authors claims that the cross must be understood against the whole history of human scapegoating violence. He goes beyond Girard by developing a comprehensive theology of the atonement.

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                                                                                                                                          • Kaplan, Grant. René Girard, Unlikely Apologist: Mimetic Theory and Fundamental Theology. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2016.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvpj7gj3Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                            This book discusses mimetic theory in its relation to fundamental theology by addressing topics like rational faith, theology of revelation, theology of religion, ecclesiology, and atheism. One chapter compares Girard and the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor regarding their views of modernity.

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                                                                                                                                            • Kirwan, Michael. Girard and Theology. Philosophy and Theology. London: T & T Clark, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                              This book addresses many important theological topics that relate to Girard’s mimetic theory. Among other issues it deals with Girard’s reading of the Bible, the Christian theory of the atonement, Schwager’s dramatic theology, political theology, and liberation theology as well as world religions.

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                                                                                                                                              • Kirwan, Michael, and Sheelah Treflé Hidden, eds. Mimesis and Atonement: René Girard and the Doctrine of Salvation. Violence, Desire, and the Sacred 5. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

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                                                                                                                                                This book brings together philosophers from Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox, and Jewish backgrounds to examine the continued significance of Girard’s work in regard to the theory of the atonement.

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                                                                                                                                                • Schwager, Raymund. Jesus in the Drama of Salvation: Toward a Biblical Doctrine of Redemption. Translated by James G. Williams and Paul Haddon. New York: Crossroad, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                  Schwager was a longtime collaborator of Girard and developed his own theological approach by developing a concept of dramatic theology that integrates Girard’s mimetic anthropology and unfolds on its basis and on a careful reading of the Bible a new understanding of the doctrine of redemption.

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                                                                                                                                                  Sacrifice

                                                                                                                                                  Girard struggled over a long period of time with the question if the term “sacrifice” applies only to rites of early religions or also to Jesus’ self-giving of his life on the cross. For many years he used the term “sacrifice” only for early religions in order to uphold his seminal distinction between the sacred and the holy. It was especially Girard’s letter exchange with Schwager that made him change his mind. In order to overcome the illusion that violence can always be overcome without any suffering, he started to use the term “sacrifice” more broadly, but still distinguishing between the sacrifice of others and self-sacrifice. His most important biblical example for this later position is the story about the judgement of Solomon in the Hebrew Bible (1 Kings 3:16–28), in which the bad harlot who preferred sacrificing the child to surrendering it to her rival is distinguished from the good harlot who is ready to sacrifice her right to the child so that the child may live. Daly 2009 addresses Girard’s understanding of sacrifice in the framework of a broader discussion of Christian sacrifice. Reineke 1997 complements Girard’s take on sacrifice with the psychoanalytic work of Kristeva. In Pally 2019 Girard’s understanding of sacrifice is critically discussed by an interdisciplinary group of scholars.

                                                                                                                                                  • Daly, Robert J. Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice. London: T & T Clark, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                    This book offers the true meaning of Christian sacrifice, which is not aiming at destruction but a response to love and an entering into the self-giving life of God. Breaking away from traditional atonement theology, which often resulted in distortions, it also provides with the help of Girard’s mimetic theory a new understanding of atonement and sacrifice.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Pally, Marcia, ed. Mimesis and Sacrifice: Applying Girard’s Mimetic Theory across the Disciplines. Violence, Desire, and the Sacred 9. New York: Bloomsbury, 2019.

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                                                                                                                                                      This book is the outcome of an interdisciplinary project that critically discussed Girard’s mimetic anthropology and his understanding of sacrifice. It includes theological and philosophical contributions as well as feminist and military perspectives or contributions addressing political or economic issues. The editor herself discusses Girard from the perspective of recent developments in evolutionary biology and maintains that competitive aggression highlighted by Girard is as old as Cain but not as old as Adam.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Reineke, Martha J. Sacrificed Lives: Kristeva on Women and Violence. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                        This book develops a theory of sacrifice that draws on Girard’s mimetic theory as well as on the psychoanalytic work of Julia Kristeva to account for women’s special vulnerability to violence in Western culture. It deals with the problem of witch-hunts, with the self-starvation of medieval mystics, and also with the threat that maternal figures meant for the Christian West.

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                                                                                                                                                        World Religions

                                                                                                                                                        Girard dealt besides his work on early religions mainly with Judaism and Christianity. He claimed a uniqueness of the Judeo-Christian tradition and held Christianity as the superior of these two religions. From the early beginnings onward, Girard’s position was questioned by his students and some of his collaborators. Sandor Goodhart, one of the early doctoral students who became later professor of English and Jewish Studies at Purdue University, claims that he deepened with the help of mimetic theory his own Jewishness and that he does not follow Girard’s privileging of Christianity. His publications (Astell and Goodhart 2011, Goodhart 2014) demonstrate a deep connection between mimetic theory and Judaism. Other scholars started to use mimetic theory to interpret Islam (Kirwan and Achtar 2019), a religion that Girard never studied in depth and only mentioned marginally when he was asked about it in interviews. Girard, however, opened himself to a broader view on the post-Axial or world religions of today when he published his book Sacrifice (see The Sacred of Early Religions) in 2003, which deals with the Vedic tradition in ancient India and with Indian ways to overcome the sacrificial past. This book became a helpful entry for a broader discussion about the relationship between mimetic theory and world religions. Palaver and Schenk 2018 comprises several essays by experts of different world religions discussing Girard’s broadening of his religious perspective. Collins 2014 provides a study of Hindu texts with the help of Girard’s anthropology.

                                                                                                                                                        • Astell, Ann W., and Sandor Goodhart, eds. Sacrifice, Scripture, and Substitution: Readings in Ancient Judaism and Christianity, Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                          The book is the outcome of a conference at Purdue University that investigated especially the relationship between mimetic theory and Judaism. It opens with a conversation between Girard and Goodhart exploring the relationship between imitation and violence throughout history. At the end of this conversation Girard relativized his usual privileging of the Bible by referring to developments in the Indian tradition that were analogues to the period of the Hebrew prophets.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Collins, Brian. The Head beneath the Altar: Hindu Mythology and the Critique of Sacrifice. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014.

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                                                                                                                                                            This is the first book to present a wide-ranging study of Hindu texts read through the lens of Girard’s mimetic theory of the sacrificial origin of religion and culture. For those interested in Girard and comparative religion, the book also performs a careful reading of Girard’s work, drawing connections between his thought and the work of theorists like Georges Dumézil and Giorgio Agamben.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Goodhart, Sandor. The Prophetic Law: Essays in Judaism, Girardianism, Literary Studies, and the Ethical. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014.

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                                                                                                                                                              Goodhart claims in this book that one can sustain a Girardian reading of the sacrificial and the mimetic and remain a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim, or a Jew. His own intellectual itinerary exemplifies impressively how a Jewish reader can broaden the understanding of Girard’s mimetic theory by uncovering its prophetic roots and by complementing it with Emmanuel Levinas’s emphasis on the ethical.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Kirwan, Michael, and Ahmad Achtar, eds. Mimetic Theory and Islam: “The Wound Where Light Enters.” New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

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                                                                                                                                                                This book explores the applicability of Girard’s mimetic theory to Islamic thought and tradition. Muslim scholars and scholars of mimetic theory critically examine Girard’s assertion about the connection between group formation, religion, and violence. They also discussed the hypothesis of an “Abrahamic Revolution,” the claim that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each share in a move away from scapegoating violence, and toward a sense of justice for the innocent victim.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Palaver, Wolfgang, and Richard Schenk, eds. Mimetic Theory and World Religions. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2018.

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                                                                                                                                                                  In his book Sacrifice (cited under The Sacred of Early Religions), Girard claimed that conflict and sacrificial resolution in the Vedic Brahmanas suggest that mimetic theory’s insights also resonate with several non-Western religious and spiritual traditions. The present volume, taking this claim as its starting point, collects engagements with Girard by scholars of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism and situates them within contemporary theology, philosophy, and religious studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Violence and Peace

                                                                                                                                                                  Girard’s mimetic theory is one of the leading approaches to understand the relationship between violence and religion. It shows how early on the sacred was a violent means to contain internal violence inside primordial human groups. Also modern legitimations of religious violence that claim to side with victims can be explained with the help of mimetic theory because it roots them in a fragmented following of the Abrahamic traditions. Whereas these traditions side with victims of persecutions and demand forgiveness, at the same time modern scapegoating neglects forgiveness and hunts for hunters of scapegoats. The strength of mimetic theory is definitely its understanding of violence as it has been taken up by Juergensmeyer 1992; Bailie 1995; Bellinger 2001; and Hodge, et al. 2018. It, however, is also helpful to show ways toward peace. Violence is highly mimetic and contagious. To step out of bad reciprocity is therefore important to stop an escalation to extremes. Mimetic theory also underlines the importance of forgiveness as a way out of violence. In this section, there are books listed on violence and religion as well as those focusing on peace and religion like Wallace and Smith 1994, Redekop and Ryba 2014a, and Redekop and Ryba 2014b.

                                                                                                                                                                  • Bailie, Gil. Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. New York: Crossroad, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Gil Bailie, an independent writer and early follower of mimetic theory, discusses in this book how the system of sacred violence is being undermined by the biblical tradition, especially the Gospel. He explains the paradox of our contemporary world: that violence is growing more menacing at the same time that it is losing its moral legitimacy. Pax Christi USA honored this book with its 1996 book award.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Bellinger, Charles K. The Genealogy of Violence: Reflections on Creation, Freedom, and Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/0195134982.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      This book complements Girard’s mimetic theory with a careful reading of Kierkegaard to achieve a better understanding of why violence is fundamentally opposed to Christianity. It helps to recognize that the deeper roots of mimetic desire that Girard explained by referring to Sartre’s concept “lack of being” have to be read in the light of Kierkegaard’s notion of human creatureliness.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Hodge, Joel, Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, and Carly Osborn, eds. Does Religion Cause Violence? Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Violence and Religion in the Modern World. Violence, Desire, and the Sacred 7. New York: Bloomsbury, 2018.

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                                                                                                                                                                        This book explores contemporary instances of religious violence, such as Islamist terrorism and radicalization in its various dimensions, as well as modern cultural mechanisms to contain violence, such as nuclear deterrence. Including perspectives from experts in theology, philosophy, terrorism studies, and Islamic studies, this volume brings together the insights of Girard’s mimetic theory with the latest scholarship on religion and violence, particularly exploring the nature of extremist violence.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Juergensmeyer, Mark, ed. Violence and the Sacred in the Modern World. London: Frank Cass, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                          This book is the outcome of a conference that Mark Juergensmeyer, an expert on global terrorism, convened in 1989. Social scientists and scholars of comparative religion focused in their contributions on religious violence in fundamentalist movements in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The book concludes with a response by Girard and anthropologist Mark R. Anspach, who underline the value of mimetic theory to understand fundamentalist movements and religiously motivated violence.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Redekop, Vern Neufeld, and Thomas Ryba, eds. René Girard and Creative Mimesis. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014a.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Girard mainly focused in his work on how easily mimetic desire turns into mimetic rivalry and violence. In an important interview with Rebecca Adams in 1993 he claimed, however, that mimesis does not automatically end up in violence but can also become a positive force enhancing human relationships. This volume collects essays by scholars of mimetic theory who explore in depth the positive and creative side of mimesis.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Redekop, Vern Neufeld, and Thomas Ryba, eds. René Girard and Creative Reconciliation. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014b.

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                                                                                                                                                                              This book contributes theoretically as well as practically to the field of reconciliation by recognizing that good theory guides effective practice, and practice is the ground for compelling theory. Using a Girardian hermeneutic as a starting point, its essays help to come to a better understanding of some of the challenges and possibilities for dealing with the deep divisions, enmity, hatred, and other effects of violence.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Wallace, Mark, and Thee Smith, eds. Curing Violence. Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                                                The authors of this book examine Girard’s mimetic theory, especially its scapegoat thesis, in light of historical and contemporary issues. They argue that the Bible presents a God of victims who stands, alongside the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, in nonviolent opposition to the systematic destruction of innocent victims.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Anthropology

                                                                                                                                                                                Girard’s mimetic theory is mainly a cultural anthropology. For this reason it is important to list publications in the wider anthropological field that apply or discuss this approach. In the beginning there were only a few anthropologists who became interested in mimetic theory. The author of Simonse 2017 is an example of an anthropologist who used mimetic theory in his own field work in South Sudan. Gans, who was Girard’s first doctoral student, started his own anthropological approach that shares many insights with Girard (Gans 2012). Mark Anspach is a long-time follower of Girard who has published on anthropological topics (Anspach 2017). Later in his life Girard came into contact with Ian Hodder, an archeologist at Stanford University who was the chief excavator of the Neolithic site at Çatalhöyük. Girard interpreted in his last public lecture in 2008 the imagery found at this settlement from the perspective of mimetic theory. This lecture led to conferences, research projects, and publications that discussed more thoroughly the relevance of mimetic theory in regard to anthropology, archeology, and evolutionary theory. Girard’s lecture was published together with essays by many different scholars in Antonello and Gifford 2015. A group of researchers that comprised experts in mimetic theory and leading archeologists discussed the relevance of mimetic theory for a better understanding of Neolithic sites in Hodder 2019.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Anspach, Mark Rogin. Vengeance in Reverse: The Tangled Loops of Violence, Myth, and Madness. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2017.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  This book by the anthropologist Mark Anspach draws on ethnography, literature, psychotherapy, and Girard’s mimetic theory to explore some of the fundamental mechanisms of human interaction like reciprocity, revenge, war, sacrifice, and the birth of gods. Likening gift exchange to vengeance in reverse, the first part of the book outlines a fresh approach to reciprocity, while the second part traces the emergence of transcendence in collective myths and individual delusions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Antonello, Pierpaolo, and Paul Gifford, eds. How We Became Human: Mimetic Theory and the Science of Evolutionary Origins. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2015.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    This book explores Girard’s hypothesis about hominization, invoking diverse viewpoints from evolutionary theory, cultural anthropology, archaeology, cognitive psychology, ethology, and philosophy. The contributors provide major evidence in favor of Girard’s hypothesis. Equally, mimetic theory is presented as having the potential to become for the human and social sciences an integrating framework like present-day biological science found in Darwin. It includes Girard’s last public lecture, “Animal Scapegoating at Çatalhöyük” from 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Gans, Eric. The Girardian Origins of Generative Anthropology. San Francisco: Imitatio, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Eric Gans, a professor of French at UCLA, was Girard’s first doctoral student and developed his own anthropological approach: Generative Anthropology. Gans learned from Girard to think of violent retribution as humanity’s central problem but differs from his teacher because he does not see the origin of humanity and religion in unanimous violence against a scapegoat, but in the advent of language and representation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Hodder, Ian, ed. Violence and the Sacred in the Ancient Near East: Girardian Conversations at Çatalhöyük. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        This book provides a dialogue between scholars of mimetic theory and archaeologists working at the Neolithic sites of Çatalhöyük and Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. At both sites there is evidence of religious practices that center on wild animals. Is it possible that these animals were ritually killed in the ways suggested by Girardian theorists? Ian Hodder and a team of contributors answer this question by linking theory and data.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Simonse, Simon. Kings of Disaster: Dualism, Centralism and the Scapegoat King in Southeastern Sudan. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2017.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          This is the revised edition of Simonse’s study of the Rainmakers of the Nilotic Sudan from 1992. Taking his inspiration from Girard’s theory of scapegoating, the author shows that the longstanding distinction of states and stateless societies as two fundamentally different political types does not hold. Centralized and segmentary systems only differ in the relative emphasis put on the victimary role of the king as compared with that of enemy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Philosophy

                                                                                                                                                                                          Girard always expressed a certain distance toward philosophy, which started with his criticism of Plato and which was also due to his claim that ancient Greek philosophy is despite its critique of myth still rooted in the scapegoat mechanism. This fact, however, did not prevent philosophers from applying mimetic in their own work or from engaging with Girard’s mimetic theory. This list shows a widespread philosophical engagement with mimetic theory. Gardner 1998, Alberg 2007, and Ranieri 2009 deal with challenges in the field of modern social and political philosophy by discussing thinkers like Descartes, Rousseau, Heidegger, Strauss, and Voegelin. Fornari 2013 builds on Girard’s interpretations of Nietzsche to provide a fuller view of this German philosopher. Bubbio 2018 reflects on the complex relation between philosophy and religion.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Alberg, Jeremiah. A Reinterpretation of Rousseau: A Religious System. Foreword by René Girard. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            This book provides a radical reinterpretation of Rousseau. Using Girard’s interpretation of scandal as the stumbling block caused by mimetic rivalry, Alberg argues that Rousseau’s system of thought is founded on theological scandal, and on the philosopher’s inability to accept forgiveness. Alberg addresses Rousseau’s rejection of original sin and explores his major works in a novel way, advancing his system of thought as an alternative to Christianity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Bubbio, Paolo Diego. Intellectual Sacrifice and Other Mimetic Paradoxes. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2018.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.14321/j.ctt1ws7x0tSave Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              This book is an account of Bubbio’s twenty-year intellectual journey through the twists and turns of Girard’s mimetic theory. The author analyzes philosophy and religion as “enemy sisters” engaged in an endless competitive struggle and identifies the intellectual space where this rivalry can either be perpetuated or come to a paradoxical resolution. The volume features a previously unpublished letter by Girard on the relationship between philosophy and religion.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Fornari, Giuseppe. A God Torn to Pieces: The Nietzsche Case. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Influenced by Girard’s own essays, Fornari shows that Nietzsche’s neglected importance as a religious thinker places him at the forefront of modern thought. He analyzes the tragic reports of Nietzsche’s madness and seeks out the cause of this self-destructive destiny, which, he argues, began earlier than his rivalry with Richard Wagner, dating back to the premature loss of his father. Also Nietzsche’s ambivalent relation to Christ is highlighted by Fornari.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Gardner, Stephen L. Myths of Freedom: Equality, Modern Thought, and Philosophical Radicalism. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  With Girard’s mimetic theory, Gardner views modernity in terms of the structure of human relations. Modern equality has wrought a revolution in the self-image of the individual and in one’s dealings with others. From Descartes to Heidegger, it becomes obvious that old myths have been replaced by the modern myths of freedom, of the autonomy of the self or the spontaneity of passion, or later, of emancipation or authenticity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Ranieri, John J. Disturbing Revelation: Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin, and the Bible. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    This book deals with the readings of the Bible by the political philosophers Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, who both were disturbed by the Bible’s influence on the political sphere. Ranieri brings their thoughts in conversation with Girard’s mimetic theory, which sheds light on the problems that arise when biblical insights take root in a culture, and offers fresh insight into Strauss’s elusive writings, such as his indebtedness to Nietzsche.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    Psychology

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Girard’s seminal book Things Hidden (see Biblical Difference) from 1978 was the result of the collaboration with Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort, two psychiatrists. Its third part was explicitly dedicated to psychological topics. Oughourlian explored in his later work his own unfolding of mimetic theory in the realm of psychology (Oughourlian 1991, Oughourlian 2010, Oughourlian 2016). Other scholars, as we see with Livingston 1992 and Reineke 2014, also started to work on psychological implications of mimetic theory. The discovery of mirror neurons in the 1980s and 1990s triggered new interest in the relationship between mimetic theory and psychology. It led, for instance, to three interdisciplinary two-day symposia held at Stanford University and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris between 2007 and 2008 that resulted in the publication of Garrels 2011.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Garrels, Scott R., ed. Mimesis and Science: Empirical Research on Imitation and the Mimetic Theory of Culture and Religion. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      This book consists of a dialogue between scholars of mimetic theory and leading imitation researchers from the cognitive, and developmental sciences, as well as neurosciences. Its chapters explore some of the major discoveries and developments concerning the foundational but often overlooked role of imitation in human life, revealing the theoretical links that can now be made from the neural basis of social interaction to the structure and evolution of human culture and religion.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Livingston, Paisley. Models of Desire: René Girard and the Psychology of Mimesis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        This book provided the first rigorous critical reconstruction of Girard’s mimetic theory. Livingston offered a systematic presentation of Girard’s ideas about the role of imitation in human motivation, surveyed responses to Girard’s work, and compared his theory of mimetic desire with recent work in cognitive psychology and philosophy. The result is a salient theoretical alternative to the false choice—between psychoanalysis and anti-psychological doctrines—that has dominated literary theory.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Puppet of Desire: The Psychology of Hysteria, Possession, and Hypnosis. Translated by Eugene Webb. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is the translation of Un Mime nommé désir: Hystérie, transe, possession, adorcisme (Paris: B. Grasset, 1982). As a practicing psychiatrist Oughourlian extends and amplifies Girard’s mimetic theory from the viewpoint of psychopathology and applies it to the study of hysteria, possession, and hypnosis. He argues that these phenomena are best understood as expressions of mimetic behavior and connects them to the development of Freud’s theory of neurosis.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Genesis of Desire. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            This is the translation of Genèse du désir (Paris: Carnets nord, 2007). Taking mimetic theory as a starting point, Oughourlian claims that desire makes us sick because the throes of rivalry are at the heart of our attraction to one another. This book provides a scientific explanation for the war of the sexes. The discovery of mirror neurons corroborates Oughourlian’s ideas, clarifying the phenomena of empathy and the mechanisms of violent reciprocity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Mimetic Brain. Translated by Trevor Cribben Merrill. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2016.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              This is the translation of Notre troisième cerveau (Paris: Albin Michel, 2013). Oughourlian shows how Girard’s hypotheses can be combined with the insights of neuroscientists to shed light on the “mimetic brain.” Offering up clinical studies and a reevaluation of classical psychiatry, he explores the interaction among reason, emotions, and imitation and reveals that rivalry—the blind spot in contemporary neuroscientific understandings of imitation—is a misunderstood driving force behind mental illness.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Reineke, Martha J. Intimate Domain: Desire, Trauma, and Mimetic Theory. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Reineke utilizes psychoanalytic theory to place Girard’s mimetic theory on firmer ground and explores familial relationships in three exemplary narratives: Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, Sophocles’s Antigone, and Julia Kristeva’s The Old Man and the Wolves. These narratives demonstrate that a corporeal hermeneutics founded in psychoanalytic theory can usefully augment mimetic theory, thereby ensuring that it remains a resource to understand humanity’s ontological illness and identify a potential cure.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Economic and Political Theory

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Mimetic theory was also discussed and applied in the fields of economic and political theory. Jean-Pierre Dupuy and Paul Dumouchel, two social philosophers, opened the debate with their seminal book L’enfer des choses: René Girard et la logique de l’économie (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1979), in which they used Girard’s mimetic theory to explore the logic of the economy. Dumouchel’s part was later translated into English in Dumouchel 2013, and Dupuy unfolded his own contribution in several books (Dupuy 2013, Dupuy 2014). Others have built on the work of Dupuy and Dumouchel, as we can see for instance in Palaver and Steinmair-Pösel 2005. Not only books engaging with economic theory are listed in this section but also those that deal with political theory (within which Dupuy and Dumouchel were also early pioneers): see Dumouchel 2015, Farneti 2015, and Cerella and Brighi 2016.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Cerella, Antonio, and Elisabetta Brighi, eds. The Sacred and the Political: Explorations on Mimesis, Violence and Religion. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This collection of essays shows what Girard’s mimetic theory contributes to the Western tradition of political theory by illuminating the dark side of politics and sovereignty. It addresses among other issues Aristotle’s idea of tragedy, passes through Machiavelli, discusses Carl Schmitt’s understanding of sovereignty as well as Agamben’s “homo sacer,” and seeks to illuminate the future relevance of the sacred/secular divide in the so-called “age of globalization.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Dumouchel, Paul. The Ambivalence of Scarcity and Other Essays. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    First published in French in 1979, The Ambivalence of Scarcity was a groundbreaking work on mimetic theory. Now expanded upon with new, specially written, and never-before-published conference texts and essays, this revised edition explores Girard’s work in three sections: economy and economics, mimetic theory, and violence and politics in modern societies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Dumouchel, Paul. The Barren Sacrifice: An Essay on Political Violence. Translated by Mary Baker. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2015.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In this book Dumouchel argues that modern states need enemies to exist, not because they are essentially evil but because modern politics constitutes a violent means of protecting us against our own violence. If they cannot find enemies outside the state, they will find them inside. However, this institution is today coming to an end because it is increasingly failing to protect us from our own violence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. The Mark of the Sacred. Translated by M. B. DeBevoise. Cultural Memory in the Present. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This is the translation of Marque du sacré (Paris: Carnets nord, 2008). Reviving the anthropology of Weber, Durkheim, and Mauss and in dialogue with the work of Girard, Dupuy shows that we must remember the world’s sacredness in order to keep human violence in check. He tracks the sacred in the very fields where human reason considers itself most free from everything it judges irrational: science, technology, economics, political and strategic thought.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. Economy and the Future: A Crisis of Faith. Translated by M. B. DeBevoise. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is the translation of L’avenir de l’économie (Paris: Flammarion, 2012). Building on mimetic theory, Dupuy claims that economic activity represents a continuation of the sacred and contains violence in the two senses of the word “contain.” He underlines also the fact that the market depends on a sense of trust and a belief in the open-endedness of the future. This requires a truly political economy, something neoclassical economic theory undermines.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Farneti, Roberto. Mimetic Politics: Dyadic Patterns in Global Politics. Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2015.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            With the help of mimetic theory, Farneti highlights phenomena that political scientists have consistently failed to notice, such as reciprocal imitation as the fundamental cause of human discord, the mechanisms of spontaneous polarization in human conflicts (i.e., the emergence of dyads or “doubles”), and the strange and ever-growing resemblance of the mimetic rivals, which is precisely what pushes them to annihilate each other.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Palaver, Wolfgang, and Petra Steinmair-Pösel, eds. Passions in Economy, Politics, and the Media: In Discussion with Christian Theology. Beiträge zur mimetischen Theorie 17. Vienna: LIT, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This book offers an interdisciplinary approach to the phenomenon of passions in the fields of economy, politics, and the media, drawing on Girard’s mimetic theory as a common focusing lens. It promotes a deeper understanding of the religious dimensions of capitalism, the contemporary return of religion to politics, and the religious implications of modern mass media. Among others, Girard, Dupuy, and Dumouchel contributed to the volume.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Institutionalizations of Mimetic Theory

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Girard’s mimetic theory has led to a broad reception in different academic disciplines and in different languages. Several organizations were founded to deepen, apply, and criticize mimetic theory. The first of these organizations was the international and interdisciplinary Colloquium on Violence & Religion (COV&R), which was founded in 1990. It started with The Bulletin of the Colloquium on Violence & Religion, its own newsletter, in which bibliographies of mimetic theory are regularly published. COV&R also provides a bibliographical database that has recently been integrated in the Index theologicus based at the University of Tübingen. From 1994 onward, COV&R has also published its annual journal Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. Later, two book series appeared in cooperation with Michigan State University Press: “Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture” and “Breakthroughs in Mimetic Theory.” In 2005 the Association Recherches Mimétiques was founded in Paris to further mimetic theory in France and French-speaking countries. In 2007, Imitatio was founded to support research and publications to reflect on the consequences of René Girard’s remarkable insights into human behavior and culture. In this list, a book (Williams 2012) telling the history of COV&R is mentioned as well as several biographical articles that were published in Contagion summarizing the reception of mimetic theory in different languages and countries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Association Recherches Mimétiques.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Following René Girard’s inauguration into the Académie française in 2005, the “Association Recherches Mimétiques” was founded in Paris to further mimetic theory in France and French-speaking countries.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • The Bulletin of the Colloquium on Violence & Religion. 1991–.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Bulletin of the Colloquium on Violence & Religion has been published since 1991 and appears at least biannually. It includes short essays, reviews, bibliographies, and information for its members. COV&R also provides a bibliographical database that has recently been integrated in the Index theologicus based at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Casini, Federica, and Pierpaolo Antonello. “The Reception of René Girard’s Thought in Italy: 1965–Present.” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 17 (2010): 139–174.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This biographical essay provides an overview of the reception of mimetic theory in Italy. It starts with the Italian philosopher and publisher Roberto Calasso and covers theology, literary criticism, philosophy, and social sciences.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Castro Rocha, João Cezar de. “Mimetic Theory and Latin America: Reception and Anticipations.” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 21.1 (2014): 75–120.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This biographical essay provides an overview of the reception and anticipations of mimetic theory in Latin America. After methodological consideration it covers literary studies, anthropology, and biblical studies and addresses anticipations like cannibalism or ontological determination ab alio.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Chantre, Benoît. “René Girard in France.” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 23.1 (2016): 13–61.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This biographical essay provides an overview of the reception of mimetic theory in France by following the main publications by Girard and how these books were received in his home country. Among the issues covered one finds the “Debate with Lucien Goldmann,” the conflict with psychoanalysis, a lost opportunity with the anthropologists, and also the “Anger of Pierre Manent.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. 1994–.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Since 1994, the COV&R has published its annual journal including essays that apply, discuss, or criticize Girard’s mimetic theory.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Hetzel, Andreas, Wolfgang Palaver, and Dietmar Regensburger. “The Reception of the Mimetic Theory in the German-Speaking World.” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 20 (2013): 25–76.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This biographical essay provides an overview of the reception of mimetic theory in the German-speaking world. It starts with the work of the Jesuit theologian Raymund Schwager, who taught in Innsbruck, and covers besides theology and religion, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, literature, economy, and psychoanalysis.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Imitatio.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Conversations between Peter Thiel, Robert Hamerton-Kelly, and René Girard led in 2007 to the foundation of “Imitatio,” a research initiative to support research and publications reflecting on the consequences of René Girard’s remarkable insights into human behavior and culture.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Mäkelä, Hanna. “The Reception of René Girard’s Thought in Finland and Scandinavia: From the 1980s to the Present.” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 25.1 (2018): 95–118.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This biographical essay provides an overview of the reception of mimetic theory in Finland and Scandinavia. It covers theology in the Protestant North, Girard’s problematic position among philosophers and social scientists, and literary studies seen from Finland.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Williams, James G. Girardians: The Colloquium on Violence and Religion, 1990–2010. Beiträge zur mimetischen Theorie 32. Vienna: LIT, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  James G. Williams, a biblical scholar and theologian, was a founding member of COV&R and its first executive secretary. His book tells the history of COV&R from its start in 1990 until 2010.

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