Books Applying Mimetic Theory in Non-Theological Areas

Alberg, Jeremiah. A Reinterpretation of Rousseau: A Religious System. Foreword by René Girard. Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Hardcover, 252 pages. James Alison writes, “Jeremiah Alberg … shines a gentle light on the admittedly scandalizing and scandalized nature of Rousseau’s own thinking, and reveals quite how central to the whole of Rousseau’s project and rationality is a scandalized pattern of desire, one where a person is simultaneously attracted to and repelled by the same object, and so is locked into a double-bind of the sort made luminous in the thought of René Girard. Alberg’s central insight is that Rousseau is simultaneously dependent on, and yet rejecting of, the Christian doctrine of original sin, a doctrine which he (as well as his contemporaries) regarded as a form of primordial accusation, rather than what it is: a perspective on who we are, which could have only come into being through an even more primordial forgiveness.”

Alberg - Beneath the Veil of Strange VersesAlberg, Jeremiah. Beneath the Veil of the Strange Verses: Reading Scandalous Texts. MSU Press: 2013. Paper: 141 pages. From Andrew McKenna’s review: “This elegant book draws its title from Dante, “O you who have sound intellects,/ look at the doctrine which hides itself/ beneath the veil of the strange verses.” …What is revealed, as his subtitle announces, is the logic of scandal by which humans are attracted to and repelled by scenes that engage our deepest moral sensibilities. The insights that René Girard has drawn from Dante are enriched when Flannery O’Connor’s dark writings are drawn into this conversation, and when the desperations of Rousseau and Nietzsche are decoded for our benefit.

anspach-vengeance-in-reverseAnspach, Mark R. Vengeance in Reverse: The Tangled Loops of Violence, Myth, and Madness. MSU Press, 2017. Paper, 136 pages. 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 — an intellectual journey that begins with the problem of how to deceive violence and ends with the riddle of how one can deceive oneself.

Can We Survive Our OriginsAntonello, Pierpaulo, and Gifford, Paul, eds. Can We Survive Our Origins? Readings in René Girard’s Theory of Violence and the Sacred. MSU Press, 2015. Paper, 388 pages. “The importance of studies such as the ones contained in this book is that they both underline the urgency of the cultural crisis and open up impressive possibilities for conversation between Girardians and others in the mainstream of our discourse. If Girard and most of the contributors to this volume are right, such conversation is anything but a luxury.” — Rowan Williams

How We Became HumanAntonello, Pierpaulo, and Gifford, Paul, eds. How We Became Human: Mimetic Theory and the Science of Evolutionary Origins. MSU Press, 2015. Paper, 406 pages. “Most of the time, the promise of ‘interdisciplinary’ inquiry remains precisely that—a promise. This collection, however, makes good on such a promise in the most decisive fashion. The description ‘indispensable’ rarely applies to collections; in the case here, the label is unavoidable.” — Chris Fleming

Mimesis, Desire, and the NovelAntonello, Pierpaulo, and Webb, Heather, eds. Mimesis, Desire, and the Novel: René Girard and Literary Criticism. MSU Press, 2015. Paper, 358 pages. “This is the kind of collection that many of us have been waiting for years to see—first-rate scholars reflecting intelligently, critically, and nondogmatically on René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire, especially as it relates to the novel. The contributors to this volume do full justice to the complexity, nuances, and incomparable heuristic power of Girard’s theory, which represents one of the most important contributions to literary criticism in the twentieth century.” — Robert Pogue Harrison, Stanford University

Astell, Ann W. Joan of Arc and Sacrificial Authorship. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003. Cloth or Paper, 304 pages. Publisher’s Description: “Blending the theoretical insights of Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, and René Girard, Ann W. Astell persuasively argues that many modern authors have seen their own artistic vocation in the visions and voices that inspired Joan.”

Bandera - A Refuge of LiesBandera, Cesáreo. A Refuge of Lies: Reflections on Faith and Fiction. MSU Press, 2013. Paper, 150 pages. Erich Auerbach’s seminal Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature … is the starting point for Bandera’s insightful work. Auerbach, Bandera notes, is amazed at the Bible’s “passionate” concern for the truth of what it says — a concern he found absent in Homer. Bandera finds that what the prophet Isaiah called “a refuge of lies” defines Homer’s work. He draws on his own research and René Girard’s theory of the sacred to develop an enhanced perspective of the relationship between these texts.

Bandera, Cesáreo. The Humble Story of Don Quixote: Reflections on the Birth of the Modern Novel. Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Hardcover, 318 pages. An in-depth study of the novel that inaugurated Girard’s mimetic theory in his first book Deceit, Desire, and the Novel.

Bandera, Cesáreo. The Sacred Game: The Role of the Sacred in the Genesis of Modern Literary Fiction. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1994. Paper, 318 pages. With penetrating historical insight, it superbly deals with fundamental issues in Western culture and literature.

Castro Rocha - Machado de AssisCastro Rocha, João Cezar de. Machado de Assis: Toward a Poetics of Emulation. MSU Press, 2015. Paper, 308 pages. “Acute, captivating, beautifully written and translated, this is a masterful reinterpretation of one of the world’s greatest novelists. By subtle close reading and a groundbreaking, innovative approach, João Cezar de Castro Rocha unfolds in front of our eyes the subtle, ramified, mimetic complexity of Machado de Assis’s genius, along with the anxieties of its formation. — Pierpaolo Antonello, University of Cambridge

Collins - The Head Beneath the AltarCollins, Brian. The Head Beneath the Altar: Hindu Mythology and the Critique of Sacrifice. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2014. Paper, 314 pages. This is the first book to present a wide-ranging study of Hindu texts read through the lens of René Girard’s mimetic theory of the sacrificial origin of religion and culture. Collins examines the idea of sacrifice from the earliest recorded rituals through the flowering of classical mythology and the ancient Indian institutions of the duel, the oath, and the secret warrior society. He also uncovers implicit and explicit critiques in the tradition, confirming Girard’s intuition that Hinduism offers an alternative anti-sacrificial worldview to the one contained in the gospels.

Depoortere, Frederiek. Christ in Postmodern Philosophy: Gianni Vattimo, René Girard, and Slavoj Zizek. London: T&T Clark / New York: Continuum, 2008. Paper, 159 pages. “In the wake of Heidegger’s announcement of the end of onto-theology and inspired by both Levinas and Derrida, many contemporary continental philosophers of religion search for a post-metaphysical God, a God who is often characterized as tout autre, wholly other. Christ in Postmodern Philosophy investigates the Christological ideas of three contemporary thinkers, Gianni Vattimo, Rene Girard and Slavoj Zizek. In doing so, Depoortere focuses on the relation between transcendence and the event of the Incarnation on the one hand, and the uniqueness of Christianity on the other.”

Dumouchel - The Ambivalence of ScarcityDumouchel, Paul. The Ambivalence of Scarcity and Other Essays. MSU Press: 2014. Paper, 388 pages. “Paul Dumouchel is a subtle, powerful, and profoundly original thinker. He has an uncommon knack for making us look at the most basic social facts with different eyes. Taking mimetic theory in new directions, this book uncovers the hidden logic behind the economic and political transformations of our time.” — Mark R. Anspach

Dumouchel - The Barren SacrificeDumouchel, Paul. The Barren Sacrifice: An Essay on Political Violence. MSU Press, 2015. Paper, 224 pages. “The primary function of the modern state is to protect us from our own violence. Paul Dumouchel uncovers the hidden paradox behind this classical thesis: why do states commit massive violence against their own citizens? The Barren Sacrifice is a powerful, lively and clear contribution to penetrate into the heart of new forms of modern and contemporary political violence.” — Stefano Tomelleri, University of Bergamo

Dumouchel, Paul, ed. Violence and Truth: on the Work of René Girard. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988. Cloth, 289 pages. In this collection of essays from a symposium in 1983, authors from philosophy, ethnology, theology, psychology, history, economics, and sociology assess Girard’s work for their disciplines.

Layout 1Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. A Short Treatise on the Metaphysics of Tsunamis. MSU Press, 2015. Paper, 96 pages. “[A] strikingly original argument against the ravages of contemporary economic technocracy and for a new civilization that [Dupuy] describes as a ‘post-economic modernity.’” — Elaine Coburn

Dupuy - Economy and the FutureDupuy, Jean-Pierre. Economy and the Future: A Crisis of Faith. MSU Press: 2014. Paper, 194 pages. “From a few simple questions Jean-Pierre Dupuy draws a number of profound insights, not always easy to grasp, that run contrary to the usual interpretation of the recent economic crisis. The trouble is well worth it.” — Julie Clarini, Le Monde

Dupuy - The Mark of the SacredDupuy, Jean-Pierre. The Mark of the Sacred. Stanford University Press, 2013. Paper, 240 pages. “Dupuy approaches the philosophical question at the very heart of today’s social and economic crisis: how is self-transcendence possible? How is it that, although we all know that market is just the result of the interaction of millions of individual acts, it appears to all of them as a foreign autonomous power? Through a close reading of Christian theology, Hegel, Heidegger, and Rene Girard, Dupuy provides a unique answer which shatters all our common wisdoms. The Mark of the Sacred is one of those rare books that cannot simply be measured by academic standards because they themselves set new standards–a book which, in an enlightened well-organized state, should be printed and freely distributed in all schools!” — Slavoj Žižek

Farneti - Mimetic PoliticsFarneti, Roberto. Mimetic Politics: Dyadic Patterns in Global Politics. MSU Press, 2015. Paper, 194 pages. “Mimetic Politics constitutes a path-breaking work based on intellectual rigour, scholarly erudition, and empirical illustration conducted in an interdisciplinary spirit. This compelling reflection on taken-for-granted assumptions in political theory delivers an urgently needed anthropological grounding for a theory of politics in a global age.” Harald Wydra, University of Cambridge

Fornari, Giuseppi. A God Torn to Pieces: The Nietzsche Case. MSU Press, 2013. Paper, 186 pages. Fornari’s groundbreaking inquiry shows that Friedrich Nietzsche’s neglected importance as a religious thinker and his “untimeliness” place him at the forefront of modern thought. … Fornari concludes that Nietzsche’s fatal rebellion against a Christian awareness, which he identified as the greatest threat to his plan, led him to become one and the same not only with Dionysus but also with the crucified Christ. His effort, Fornari argues, was a dramatic way to recognize the silent, inner meaning of Christ’s figure, and perhaps to be forgiven.

Garrels, Scott R., editor. Mimesis and Science: Empirical Research on Imitation and the Mimetic Theory of Culture and Religion. MSU Press, 2011. Paper, 266 pages. From the book description: “Together, mimetic scholars and imitation researchers are on the cutting edge of some of the most important breakthroughs in understanding the distinctive human capacity for both incredible acts of empathy and compassion as well as mass antipathy and violence.”

Grande, Per Bjørnar. Mimesis and Desire: An Analysis of the Religious Nature of Mimesis and Desire in the Work of René Girard. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2009. Paper: 224 pages.

Grote - Clever as SerpentsGrote, Jim and McGeeney, John. Clever as Serpents: Business Ethics and Office Politics. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1997. Paper, 149 pages. A wonderfully practical look at how to work together with others, one that uses a very accessible outline of Girardian theory for the background to getting practical.

Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G, ed. Politics & Apocalypse. East Lansing, MI: MSU Press, 2007. Paper, 266 pages. “Including an important new essay by Girard, this volume enters into a philosophical debate that challenges the bona fides of philosophy itself by examining three supremely important philosophers of the twentieth century [Eric Voegelin, Leo Strauss, and Carl Schmitt]. It asks how we might think about politics now that the attacks of 9/11 have shifted our intellectual foundations and what the outbreak of rabid religion might signify for international politics.”

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. Paper, 275 pages. Record of a scholarly conversation held in 1983; it contains an important statement by Girard of the basics of his theory.

Humbert, David. Violence in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock: A Study in Mimesis. MSU Press, 2017. Paper, 210 pages. Parting ways with the Freudian and Lacanian readings that have dominated recent scholarly understanding of Hitchcock, David Humbert examines the roots of violence in the director’s narratives and finds them not in human sexuality but in mimesis. This study will appeal not only to Hitchcock fans and film scholars but also to those interested in Freud and Girard and their competing theories of desire.

Johnsen, William A. Violence and Modernism: Ibsen, Joyce, and Woolf. University Press of Florida, 2003. Cloth, 192 pages. “Employing Northrop Frye and René Girard as his theoretical foundation, Johnsen [who edits many books on this page for MSU Press] reinterprets the works of three canonical modernists — Ibsen, Joyce, and Woolf — to argue for their commitment to analyzing collective violence as a defining motive in literary modernism.”

Lawtoo - Conrads ShadowLawtoo, Nidesh. Conrad’s Shadow: Catastrophe, Mimesis, Theory. MSU Press, Sept. 2016. Paper, 480 pages. Through a reading of Joseph Conrad’s novels, Nidesh Lawtoo examines the psychological, ethical, and anthropological implications of contagious affects that trouble the boundaries of individuation. Looking at Conrad’s fiction through the lens of mimesis sheds light on key themes of dueling, catastrophe, and ritual sacrifice.

Lawtoo - The Phantom of the EgoLawtoo, Nidesh. The Phantom of the Ego: Modernism and the Mimetic Unconscious. MSU Press, 2013. Paper, 424 pages. The Phantom of the Ego is the first comparative study that shows how the modernist account of the unconscious anticipates contemporary discoveries about the importance of mimesis in the formation of subjectivity. Through a transdisciplinary, comparative reading of landmark modernist authors like Nietzsche, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, and Georges Bataille, Lawtoo shows that, before being a timely empirical discovery, the “mimetic unconscious” emerged from an untimely current in literary and philosophical modernism. This book traces the psychological, ethical, political, and cultural implications of the realization that the modern ego is born out of the spirit of imitation; it is thus, strictly speaking, not an ego, but what Nietzsche calls, “a phantom of the ego.”

McCormack, W.J. Enigmas of Sacrifice: A Critique of Joseph M. Plunkett and the Dublin Insurrection of 1916. MSU Press, forthcoming in 2016. Paper, 372 pages.

McKenna, Andrew J. Violence and Difference: Girard, Derrida, and Deconstruction. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992. Paper, 238 pages. Brilliantly uses Girardian anthropology to go one step beyond Derrida’s deconstructionist philosophical project by showing how and why the violence — which Derrida poses as underlying the entire Western philosophical tradition — is generated, thus completing Derrida’s deconstruction of the latter. The Christian revelation is suggested as a more enlightening alternative to Derrida’s deconstruction (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:18ff.) — one which pre-dated the latter by almost two thousand years!

Merrill, Trevor Cribben. The Book of Imitation and Desire: Reading Milan Kundera with René Girard. Bloomsbury Academic, 2014. Paper, 208 pages.

Meszaros, Julia, and Zachhuber, Johannes, eds. Sacrifice and Modern Thought. Oxford University Press, 2013. Cloth, 288 pages. Individual chapters discuss in depth major theological trajectories, theories of sacrifice including those of Marcel Mauss and René Girard (including Wolfgang Palaver and Jon Pahl), and current feminist criticism.

Orlean_The Empire of ValueOrléan, André. The Empire of Value: A New Foundation for Economics. MIT Press, 2014. [Originally published in French, 2011; trans. by M. B. DeBevoise.] Cloth, 368 pages. Edited from the inside cover: Despite the 2007-08 financial crisis, economists continue to rely on the same methods and to proceed from the same underlying assumptions. André Orléan challenges the neoclassical paradigm in this book, with a new way of thinking about perhaps its most fundamental concept, economic value. Using the “Mimetic Hypothesis,” he contends that economic value is a social force whose vast sphere of influence, amounting to a kind of empire, extends to every aspect of economic life. What economists must therefore study, Orléan urges, is the hold that value has over individuals and how it shapes their perceptions and behavior. Awarded the prestigious Prix Paul Ricoeur on its original publication in France in 2011.

Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. Psychopolitics: Conversations with Trevor Cribben Merrill. Foreword by René Girard. MSU Press: 2012. [Originally published in French, 2010; trans. by Trevor Cribben Merrill.] Paper, 99 pages. René Girard writes in the preface, “This book should interest all sorts of readers. . . . It expresses a spark of hope in the face of a future that is at best uncertain and encourages us to think about the concrete measures to be taken.”

Oughourlian - The Mimetic BrainOughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Mimetic Brain. MSU Press, forthcoming in 2016. Paper, 228 pages. “Its theory of the three ‘brain functions’ — rational, emotive, and mimetic — is clearly explained and well-illustrated with fascinating case studies that show how psychoses and neuroses need to be understood as involving the interaction of all three in different proportions relating to the particular case.” – Eugene Webb

Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Puppet of Desire: The Psychology of Hysteria, Possession, and Hypnosis. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991. [Originally pub. in French, 1982; trans., with an introduction, by Eugene Webb.] Cloth, 263 pages. A collaborator with Girard on Things Hidden and a practicing psychiatrist, Oughourlian elaborates on the “Interdividual Psychology” of the Girardian anthropology. It is also a fascinating effort at writing a history of psychology that goes back much further than Freud–putting him in his place, so to speak.

Redekop, Vern Neufeld, and Paré, Shirley. Beyond Control: A Mutual Respect Approach to Protest Crowd-Police Relations. Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. Cloth, 288 pages. An important resource book for the 2016 Theology & Peace conference — Redekop a plenary speaker.

Reineke_Intimate DomainReineke, Martha J. Intimate Domain: Desire, Trauma, and Mimetic Theory. MSU Press: 2014. Paper, 414 pages. “Reineke’s Intimate Domain is an authoritative and timely response to many of our contemporary dilemmas. Drawing on René Girard’s neglected early work on sensory experience, Reineke boldly reactivates the stalled relationship between mimetic theory and psychoanalysis.” — Maria Margaroni

scubla-giving-life-giving-deathScubla, Lucien. Giving Life, Giving Death: Psychoanalysis, Anthropology, Philosophy. MSU Press, 2016. Paper, 420 pages. “Giving Life, Giving Death delivers a challenge to both psychoanalyst and anthropologists. It makes something that neither group has wanted to see look like an obvious fact, namely that the desire and organization of human societies do not revolve around penisneid, the Oedipus complex (classically interpreted), or alliance, but instead around masculine envy of women’s power to give birth and relations of filiation as much as or more than alliance.” — Alain Caillé

Tomelleri - RessentimentTomelleri, Stefano. Ressentiment: Reflections on Mimetic Desire and Society. MSU Press, 2015. Paper, 240 pages. “Stefano Tomelleri shows with clarity and insight how resentment came to be the dominant passion of modern societies. At the core of the process of democratization . . . lies the perpetual combustion of this ‘sad passion,’ with all the ambivalent complexity that Tomelleri brilliantly teases out. A fundamental book for understanding the deep-seated relational articulation of our democratic world that is balanced between retaliatory violence and the (im)possibility of forgiveness.” — Pierpaolo Antonello, University of Cambridge

Tyrrell, Wm. Blake. The Sacrifice of Socrates: Athens, Plato, Girard. MSU Press, 2012. Paper, 189 pages. Examining Plato’s dialogues on the death of Socrates, the book description says, “With tremendous insight and satisfying complexity, this book analyzes classical texts through the lens of Girard’s mimetic mechanism.”

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