COV&R-Bulletin No. 1 (Sept. 1991)
Abstracts of the COV&R-Conference ("Mythology, with particular reference to the hypothesis of René Girard") at Stanford University May 16-18, 1991
Judith H. Arias shifts the traditional focus on Don Juan's origins in medieval folklore and in fictional or real-life precursors to his connection with the pagan tradition of Eros/Cupid and the Christian tradition of the Devil. Don Juan in fact makes his debut into the world of literary fiction as the composite figure Don Juan/Cupid/Devil, as her study of the metaphorical connections between these figures in Tirso de Molina's El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (c. 1630) illustrates. The association of Don Juan with Cupid and the Devil is shown to be significant from a Girardian perspective for its relation to mediated desire and for the light it sheds upon our understanding of the problem of human evil.
In 1651, at the age of 51, Calderón decided to become a priest. As part of his decision he wanted to stop writing for the theater. At the insistence of the King and the Court, he struck with himself something of a compromise. He would continue to write, but only certain types of plays: on the one hand, autos sacramentales, one-act sacramental plays, and, on the other, almost exclusively mythological plays. What kind of logic underlies this peculiar choice, this thematic and somewhat contradictory dichotomy? Furthermore, is there any relationship between this Calderonian decision and the view of the theater which can be found in such earlier masterpieces as La vida es sueño? These are the questions explored in this paper.
Paul B. Duff - Joseph M. Hallman, "'Your Desire Shall Be for Your Husband and He Shall Rule over You': Sex, Power, and Murder in the Garden?"
The subject of the paper is Genesis 2.4b to 4.16, the story of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel. We believe that the original story, now hidden in the first part of the narrative, was about the expulsion of the primal man from the circle of the gods. We propose that this interpretation, based on René Girard, explains the text better than any of the many others which have been given or are held currently.
The story of the so-called "fall" which resulted in the attainment of the knowledge of good and evil (survival is the good, and violence the evil, hence sacrifice is necessary) by the man and woman was formed at a later stage. Appropriate editing changed the original story of expulsion from the divine council, "cleaning it up" so to speak. The biblical story as it now stands relates the origin of gender difference (their nakedness), and how the discovery of that difference created a unique sameness, difference mimesis and desiring on the part of men and women. This has obvious overtones for gender studies.
Cain kills Abel because Cain ignores the knowledge of good and evil. Cain's sacrifice is not bloody. Hence his violence is unleashed on his brother. Girard himself has already made this point.
A mimetic scapegoat reading of a Venda myth according to the versions reproduced by Luc de Heusch in Le roi ivre ou l'origine de l'état (Gallimard, 1972), pp. 61-62.
Robert Hamerton-Kelly, "Allegory, Typology, and Sacred Violence: Sacrificial Representation and the Unity of the Bible in Paul and Philo"
Philo of Alexandria interpreted the Bible allegorically in order to make it accessible to cultured people of his time. The Church Fathers of Alexandria continued allegorical interpretation, while the Fathers of Antioch preferred typology. They believed that these modes of interpretation demonstrated the unity of the Bible. According to them the biblical text refers to a spiritual world beyond itself.
Both allegory and typology are tropes in which on thing stands for another, that is, they are complex forms of representation. By mimetic theory all representation is sacrificial because it begins with the victim as the signifier and the violence of the mob as the signified. Representation points away from the self towards the victim. It is a form of scapegoating, in the sense of the primal differentiation that makes society possible. Allegory and typology are hyper-sacrificial because they locate the meaning of the text entirely in the metaphysical realm.
The hermeneutic of sacred violence, centered on the Cross and exemplified by the apostle Paul, is a form of representation that locates meaning not in the metaphysical but in the interpersonal realm. It does so by disclosing that it was the metaphysical in its religio-mythological guise that crucified Christ. The Cross is, therefore, the disclosure of the violence of metaphysical myth-interpretation, of which allegory and typology are prime examples.
The unity of the Bible is secured by the fact that the hermeneutic of the Cross operates in both testaments. The "Judgement of Solomon', in l Kings 3:l6-28 is a clear example of its operation. In order to see it throughout the Bible one must be made aware of it, and since the Cross of Christ is the most vivid instance of it, it is also the point at which one is most likely to become aware of it. The gospel of the Cross is, therefore, also an instruction about how to read the Bible, and all literature for that matter.
Michael Hardin, "Mimesis and Dominion: The Dynamics of Violence and the Imitation of Christ in Maximus Confessor"
William E.B. DuBois uses double-consciousness, and René Girard uses double-bind to analyze the dichotomous, paradoxical Power of doubles. Girard uses the concept of double-bind which is a product of triangular mimetic (imitative, representative) rivalry when difference between partners no longer exists. ... Mimetic desire creates violent appropriation and exclusion in Western culture: scapegoating. DuBois uses the double-consciousness of the veiled African American life: a contradictory, bifurcated conscious of souls, thoughts, and unreconciled strivings. DuBois contrasts double-consciousness as both a gift when the African American moves toward transformed self-consciousness and the curse of a racist society that projects back a distorted, broken-mirrored image.
Girard and DuBois use literary tools to orchestrate aberrant socio-cultural harmonies with God, self and others. They challenge us to listen to the solo voice of appearances and hear the ensembles of reality. Both writers question power, relationships, and human identity. Midst the sacred within their cosmologies, they both seek a healing response via the divine and human I am-ness using the double hermeneutically. Mimesis and The Veil are the keys to Girardian violence and sacrality and the DuBoisian color line: both are born of cultural schizophrenia.
Girard's doubles are profound but remain problematic with their insensitivity to the feminine, nature, and non-Western thought, and the need to begin and end all rivalry with a death. In contrast, DuBois stands for the conjunction of opposites which usually embrace difference but may transcend the mimetic, conflictual, triangular veil of desire. DuBois' veil-double thus stands Girard's bind-double on end and vice versa.
René Girard believes that one cannot answer any important question about the Book of Job unless one takes into account the foundational idea of the scapegoat mechanism. This paper examines the implications of Girard's technique of "global interpretation" for two key issues: the notion of the anthropologist/interpreter as a hero who exposes the perfidy of myth, and Girard's dismissal of the narrative framework and the divine speeches as additions to the dialogues designed to neutralize the revelation of the scapegoat. The paper concludes by showing that these alleged additions actually have an anti-mythical thrust comparable to that of the dialogues.
Unlike myth, the Bible strives to bring us to a presentation of the immediate experience of God. A major demythification strategy of the Bible is the recognition that the double is both the originating point of mythological development, as well as the point where the demything process is primarily rooted. The stories of Abraham and Moses are in direct opposition to the predilection of mythology: The figure of Moses undergoes the process of demythification with reference to the events connected with his death: Mosaic law replaces the Mosaic body upon his death. The book of Job argues for demythification by retrieving for human rationality a responsible, ethical universe while simultaneously acknowledging the limitations of that same rationality.
While most discussions of genre films -- Westerns, Gangster, Horror, and Science fiction films -- engage some consideration of myth, the sacrificial scenario of Girard's mimetic hypothesis affords rigor and coherence to this notion. The expulsion of villainy by a heroic representative of the community reflects the dynamics of sacrifice . The manifold dimensions of ritual are legible in these scenarios which aim at occluding the communal i origin of violence. They translate the public's ambivalence to the law, which seeks to monopolize revenge. The hero-villain-victim (townspeople) triad veils the more essential dyad of mimetically violent doubles whose rivalry both informs and threatens the social order -- the villain-victim being the pretext for variously dissimulated mob action.
Are the judgment sayings a sign, that the God of the New Testament remains in a subtle way a mythological God (simultaneously good and terrible)? A precise analysis reveals that the metaphorical language of the parables (of judgment) has to be interpreted with respect to their 'point' (la pointe). There are normally two 'points'. The first effects a dramatization within a typical course of action, and the second turns around this entire perspective. In this subtle way the parables of judgment reveal that the judgment is a self-judgment. The indirect and metaphorical speech is necessary because language as such is rooted in a world of violence, and the revelation of a nonviolent God includes the entire transformation of language.
Simon Simonse, "The Burst and the Cut Stomach: The Representation of the Scapegoat Mechanism in Nilotic Kingship"
The point of departure of my paper are two contrasting but related practices performed on the bodies of dead kings by communities on the Upper Nile in the Southern Sudan. The bodies of kings who die a non-violent death are left to bloat and burst with the purpose of multiplying the blessings ensuing from their death. The bellies of kings killed by the community for causing drought are slit open so as to prevent further disaster from attacking the community. I argue that the practices are fully elucidated by considering the royal stomach as a 'victimary organ' turning violence into order. The argument is concluded with a plea for regional structural comparison to support victimary hermeneutics and by raising some questions on the nature of the awareness (`meconnaissance') of the participants in scapegoating-processes in the societies under discussion.
Ivan Strenski, "At Home with René Girard: Eucharistic Sacrifice, the 'French School', and Joseph De Maistre"
Girard's theory of sacrifice is best seen as a piece of theological discourse. As such, it indicts (and inverts) a particular French Catholic spirituality, deriving from the reaction to the Protestant reformation. This religion originates in the sacrificial eucharistic theology of the seventeenth century "Ecole Française de Spiritualité," which was developed under the leadership of the Oratorian order, Bérulle, Condren, and Olier. Oratorian spirituality was subsequently reinforced by the political-religious thought of De Maistre, and the novelists of the Catholic revival, Bernanos, Huysmans, and Bloy.