For Further Study / Introduction to Mimetic Theory

If you would like a more straightforward introduction to Girard’s work, I offer an annotated bibliography (further links below), but there are also good introductions and readily available resources online.

When René Girard died in November 2015, there were a number of tributes to his life and work that offer concise, clear, and accurate introductions to Girard’s “Mimetic Theory.” I have cataloged a number of them on my own tribute page “In Memory of René Girard.” They provide an excellent beginning place.

Other online introductions that I recommendation are:

  • Girard‘s own article “Are the Gospels Mythical?“. (Girard’s answer to this question is a resounding “No!”); and what is very close to the introduction to his last book Battling to the End, an essay entitled “On War and Apocalypse.”
  • a highly recommended intro consists of superbly edited extensive interviews with Girard by David Cayley of the CBC radio show Ideas, titled “The Scapegoat: René Girard’s Anthropology of Violence and Religion.” These provide a rare opportunity to hear from René Girard himself. Podcast links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
  • Preaching Peace,” by Michael Hardin, is an excellent website with a similar mission as this one.
  • James Alison, Theology Website. A key theologian who uses mimetic theory as a hermeneutic for the theological task is James Alison. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, comments on one his books, Faith Beyond Resentment: “The very best theological books leave you with a feeling that perhaps it’s time you became a Christian. This is emphatically such a book.”
  • a two-part essay by S. Mark Heim in the March 7-14, 2001 issues of The Christian Century; Heim does a terrific job of offering Girard’s anthropology as a new key to understanding the Cross and thus as a corrective to many traditional doctrines of the atonement. Link to the online versions (subscription is required for access): “Christ Crucified: Why does Jesus’ death matter?,” which sets up the problem; and “Visible Victim: Christ’s death to end sacrifice,” which answers it with mimetic theory; Heim followed these essays with an excellent book, Saved from Sacrifice, that performs a thorough-going application of mimetic theory to a theology of the cross.
  • For a more complete list of online resources, see the “Links & Resources” page.

For a more substantial but accessible entry into Girard’s work I highly recommend Gil Bailie’s Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. It is a book that artfully weaves together Girardian insights with Christian perspectives on modern life.

An introductory book which I’ve heard Girard himself recommend is Richard Golsan‘s René Girard and Myth: An Introduction (1993). Two more recent, up-to-date, and comprehensive introductory books are Wolfgang Palaver‘s René Girard’s Mimetic Theory and James Warren‘s Compassion or Apocalypse?. Of the latter, Brian McLaren writes not only a strong endorsement for this book but also for the importance of Girard’s work: “I’m convinced that the seminal work of René Girard is the single most promising and productive contemporary resource capable of stimulating fresh readings of the Bible, constructive critical thought about Christian theology and practice, and incisive inducement to productive activism. Several scholars are engaging productively with Girard’s thought, but James Warren has written the best popular introduction and overview — substantial and thorough yet accessible and delightfully written.”

Of Girard’s own works, I would recommend to the Christian reader that the best place to start would be either The Scapegoat or  I See Satan Fall Like Lightning. Both provide a good mix of his anthropological theory along with interpretation through biblical material. A connoisseur of Shakespeare would delight in his A Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare.

Continuing Education / Conferences

There are also opportunities for continuing education through conferences and presenters:

  • The annual conference of the Colloquium on Violence & Religion (COV&R). The 2015 conference, “The One by Whom Scandal Has Come: Critically Engaging the Girardian Corpus,” is set for the St. Louis University, July 8-12. Papers for recent conferences may be accessed at their websites: 2013 in Cedar Falls, Iowa; 2011 in Salina, Sicily; 2010 at University of Notre Dame; 2004 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. See a complete list of past COV&R Conferences.
  • PreachingPeace.org sometimes sponsors conferences; check their “Conference” page.
  • Theology and Peace is an offshoot of Girardian groups which focuses more on Mimetic Theory in light of the Gospel of Peace, more specifically for an audience of faith practitioners: “An emerging movement seeking the transformation of theological practice through the application of mimetic theory. Theology and Peace gathers theologians, pastors, activists, and others interested in applying the insights of mimetic theory for the formation of an authentic and effective theology of peace. T&P offers an annual conference and other continuing education opportunities. The 2015 conference is May 27-29 in Chicago, IL.
  • James Alison is also available as a speaker, one whom Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has recently named among writers “communicating profound theological material in an accessible way” (The Christian Century, April 24-May 1, 2002, p. 24). See his website listed above for contact information.
  • I am available as a speaker/presenter. I am especially interested in opportunities to reach sister ELCA congregations or groups. Mimetic theory, I believe, lends a unique perspective on the crucial issues facing the ELCA around gay and lesbian people in the church (see the overview in Part IV.4.4 of “My Core Conviction“; see also a Résumé of sorts for making presentations on mimetic theory and the life of the church. Contact .

Excerpts / Resource Pages, cont.


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