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Colloquium On Violence & Religion



COV&R-Bulletin No. 7 (Oct. 1994)



A Note from the Editor

In t

his issue of the Bulletin, you will find reports from our annual meeting in Wiesbaden. We invite you to contact the authors mentioned in the reports for a copy of their papers for further discussion. The executive secretary of COV&R or the editorial office of the Bulletin will provide you with addresses.

In the March 1994 issue of the Bulletin we published two abstracts by Charles Mabee and Jim Williams on the Suffering Servant. We will continue this discussion in this issue of the Bulletin. Sandor Goodhart sent us an abstract of his paper on Isaiah 52-53 that he delivered at our Washington meeting in November 1993. His abstract questions the theory of the uniqueness of Christianity from a Girardian point of view. We invited two Catholic theologians from Austria who are familiar with Girard's theory to respond to Sandor's question. This Jewish-Christian dialogue in the Bulletin should stimulate our dialog on this topic at our fall meeting in Chicago.

Let me raise also some administrative matters:

(1) We ask you to send us your contributions to the Bulletin on a floppy disk or by e-mail. It greatly simplifies the publication of the Bulletin.

(2) If you would like to write a book review for the Bulletin please contact the editorial office or James G. Williams, the executive secretary. The length of a review should be between 600 and 1000 words. Longer reviews (at most 2000 words) will only be published in special circumstances.

(3) The length of an abstract should be between 100 and 300 words.

(4) Please find out if you have paid your annual dues. You will find the date of your last payment at the top of your mailing label. The regular membership fee is $30.00. Matriculated students may enroll for $15. It is also possible to subscribe to the Bulletin without membership for $15. The Bulletin appears biannually. The terms of payment you will find on the front-page.

Wolfgang Palaver


A Note from the Executive Secretary

Most of what I have to report and announce is stated already in the membership renewal letter from Gil Bailie and me that was sent to North American members and friends. However, since it was not mailed to European colleagues, I will reiterate it here.

The annual meeting, held in Wiesbaden, was a huge success, with 110 registrants. Many thanks to Raymund Schwager, Wolfgang Palaver, and Dietmar Regensburger for their work. The ambiance was relaxed and friendly, and our main speakers, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, John Milbank, and René Girard stimulated and continued important discussions.

The meeting of COV&R in conjunction with the annual convention of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature will take place Friday, November 18, 1994 in Chicago. The topic of the morning session, 9-12 noon in Conference Room 4C of the Hilton, will be biblical interpretation. Papers will be given by Charles Mabee and Sandy Goodhart on the prophetic tradition as a basis for Jewish-Christian dialogue and Hans Jensen on Girard, Lévi-Strauss, and the Joseph Story. The afternoon session, 2-4:30 in Williford B of the Hilton, will focus on the question of whether Christianity is a sacrificial religion. Robert Daly will present a paper, with Bruce Chilton and Paul Duff as respondents. That evening Andrew McKenna will host a COV&R buffet reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at his house. His address is 1103 W. Albion. You can take a taxi to his home or the CTA train to the Loyola stop. Further information will be provided at the sessions in Chicago.

The topic for the COV&R meeting June 1-3, 1995 at Loyola University of Chicago is "Mimesis, Violence, and the Subject of Responsibility." The program is partially set, but also partially still in formation. The program committee is still interested in presentations by members, especially those who have not, or who have not recently, actively participated in meetings. Thematic sections include Paradoxes and Pragmatics of Communication, Literature and Human Conflict, Women's Studies, Jewish-Christian Dialogue, Politics and Representation, and Conflict Resolution. Suggestions of themes for other sections are welcome. Please address your suggestions and one-page abstracts to Andrew McKenna, Dept. of Modern Languages and Literatures, Loyola University-Chicago, Chicago, IL 60626. FAX: (312)508-3514.

You will have received by now your copy of Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. A periodical is quite an undertaking and a big step forward for COV&R. Our warm thanks to Judy Arias for her excellent work in producing a journal of such high quality in form and content. She urges all those with an academic appointment to request that their library subscribe to CONTAGION.

Finally, our thanks to Bob Hamerton-Kelly for his contribution in writing the Minutes of the Advisory Board and plenary business meetings.

James G. Williams


Minutes of the Plenary Business Meeting, Wiesbaden-Naurod, June 10, 1994

The president, Raymund Schwager, convened the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Our honorary chairperson, René Girard, was present.

1. The president reported on the deliberations and recommendations of the Advisory Board, especially the plan to stagger the terms of the members of the board.

2. Election of officers and advisory board members: The nominations of the advisory board were set before the plenary meeting as follows:

a) Officers:

Executive Secretary: James Williams--for 3 yrs.

Editor of the Bulletin: Wolfgang Palaver--for 3 yrs.

Editor of Contagion: Judith Arias--for 3 yrs.

b) Board Members:

Mark Wallace, Charles Mabee--for 1 yr.

Thee Smith, Jørgen Jørgensen, Walter Wink, Mark Anspach--for 2 yrs.

Roel Kaptein, Diana Culbertson, Robert Hamerton-Kelly, Cesáreo Bandera, Andrew McKenna--for 3 yrs.

All were elected by acclamation.

3. Reports and Requests:

a) The Bulletin: The editor, Wolfgang Palaver, requested that we continue to send him reports of works relevant to our interest. He reminded us that the bibliographic service of the Bulletin was a joint effort. There was an enthusiastic vote of thanks by applause and acclamation to the editor for his fine work.

b) Contagion: The editor, Judith Arias, reported that the first issue would be out very soon; that the first two issues would follow the themes and contain papers from the annual meetings; that Contagion would be sent to paid-up members without a rise in dues; that the subtitle would be Journal of Mimesis, Violence, and Religion. She paid tribute to Cesáreo Bandera, James Williams, and Raymund Schwager for the part they played in making the first issue a reality. There was an enthusiastic vote of thanks by applause and acclamation to the editor for her fine work in getting the journal started.

c) The treasurer, Gil Bailie, reported the same information as in the Advisory Board Minutes for June 7-8, 1994. The account is $2,750.30 is in the black. There will be a request for 1994 dues soon after this meeting. [Ed. Note. A letter is scheduled to go out to North American members in September.]

d) The executive secretary, James Williams, reported on future meetings. [Ed. Note. Information on the 1994 and 1995 meetings is given in the Note from the Executive Secretary.]

1996: Stanford University, Center for International Security and Arms Control, Robert Hamerton-Kelly, organizer. Theme: "Religion, Ethnic Conflict, and International Peacekeeping" (tentative title). Dates not fixed.

1997: Jerusalem or Syracuse University. If in Jerusalem, the theme would be "Interreligious Dialogue" (tentative).

4. Vote of thanks: There was a warm vote of thanks, by applause and acclamation, to the organizers of the present meeting: Raymund Schwager, Wolfgang Palaver, Dietmar Regensburger, and their helpers from Innsbruck, and to our gracious hosts at the Wilhelm-Kempf-Haus.

The meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Robert Hamerton-Kelly


Bibliography of Literature on the Mimetic Theory

1) Books concerning the entire work of René Girard

Lagarde, François. René Girard, ou, La christianisation des sciences humaines. Sociocriticism 7. New York: P. Lang, 1994.

2) Articles concerning the entire work of René Girard

Baudler, Georg. "Jesus ist kein Opferlamm. Zur 'nicht-sakrifiziellen' Evangelieninterpretation René Girards." Zeitschrift für die Praxis des Religionsunterrichts 18/1 (1988): 28-31.

Chilton, Bruce. "René Girard, James Williams and the Genesis of Violence." Bulletin for Biblical Research No.3 (1993): 17-29.

Darr, John A. "Mimetic Desire, the Gospels, and Early Christianity: A Response to René Girard." Biblical Interpretation 1/3 (1993): 357-367.

Dewey, Joanna. "A Response to René Girard: 'Is There Anti-Semitism in the Gospels?'." Biblical Interpretation 1/3 (1993): 353-356.

Dieckmann, Bernhard. "Schuld abladen. Der Sündenbock und die anderen." Katechetische Blätter 117/7-8 (1992): 456-464.

Dupuy, Jean-Pierre and Kitzmüller, Erich. "Der Markt dämmt und akkumuliert die Gewalt." In Der kalte Blick der Ökonomie: 30 Gespräche, ed. Bammé, Arno, Berger, Wilhelm, Gerschlager, Caroline, and Gubitzer, Luise, 319-344. Technik- und Wissenschaftsforschung 22. München: Profil, 1993.

Walters, Jonathan S. ""Sacrificing René Girard"." Critical Theology 9 1990): 23-33.

3) Interviews with René Girard

Jakob, Michael. "Gespräch mit René Girard." In Aussichten des Denkens, ed. Jakob, Michael, 155-176. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1994.

Kaup, Johannes. "Kein Ende mit den Sündenböcken?: Denkanstöße für die Theologie von René Girard." ORF/Ö1: Reihe Logos, Theologie und Leben, 23 July 1994, tape recording: 25 minutes.

Kaup, Johannes. "Die Gewalt, der Sündenbock und das Opfer: Im Diskurs mit René Girard und seiner Schule." ORF/Ö1: Salzburger Nachtstudio, 27 July 1994, tape recording: 55 minutes.

4) Reviews about single works of René Girard

Altwegg, Jürg. "Das Evangelium und das Ende der Gewalt. René Girards Versuch, die Bibel mit moderner Humanwissenschaft zu deuten." Tagesanzeiger, 6 April 1985, 41.

Burkert, Walter. "Im Namen des Sündenbocks zwischen alle Stühle gesetzt." Die Welt, 5 October 1988.

Dibiase, C. "Review of "Violence and the Sacred", by René Girard." Italian Quarterly 27/104 (1986): 118-119.

Neubaur, Caroline. "Das Opfer in der Revolte. René Girards Weg aus der Gewalt." Süddeutsche Zeitung, 16 November 1990, 55.

Yoder, John H. "Review of "The Scapegoat", by René Girard." Religion & Literature 19/3 (Fall 1987): 89-92.

5) Books with references to René Girard

Baudler, Georg. Töten oder Lieben: Gewalt und Gewaltlosigkeit in Religion und Christentum. München: Kösel, 1994.

Bellinger, Charles. "Ernest Becker and Søren Kierkegaard on Political Violence." In Church Divinity, ed. Morgan, John H., 20-40. Bristol, Indiana: Wyndham Hills Press, 1987.

Connolly, William E. The Augustinian Imperative: A Reflection on the Politics of Morality. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1993.

Giegerich, Wolfgang. Tötungen. Gewalt aus der Seele. Versuch über Ursprung und Geschichte des Bewußtseins. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1994.

Lincoln, Bruce. Death, War, and Sacrifice: Studies in Indeology and Practice. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Mertens, Herman-Emil. Not the Cross But the Crucified: An Essay in Soteriology. Louvain Theological and Pastoral Monographs 11. Louvain and Grand Rapids: Peeters Press and Eerdmans, 1992.

Quint, David. Epic and Empire: Politics and Generic Form from Virgil to Milton. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Ray, Benjamin C. Myth, Ritual, and Kingship in Buganda. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Wildavsky, Aaron. Assimilation Versus Separation: Joseph the Administrator and the Politics of Religion in Biblical Israel. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1993.

6) Articles with references to René Girard

Arens, Edmund. "Kultur, Praxis, Kritik. Anliegen einer kontextuellen Theologie in Europa." Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie 116/3 (1994): 288-300.

Atnally, R.F. "The Line and the Labyrinth: Symbolic Keys to Cultural History." Mankind Quarterly 32/4 (1992): 337-358.

Dupuy, Jean-Pierre and Varela, Francisco. "Kreative Zirkelschlüsse: Zum Verständnis der Ursprünge." In Das Auge des Betrachters. Beiträge zum Konstruktivismus, ed. Watzlawick, P. and Krieg, P., 247-275. München: Piper, 1991.

Elliott, Neil. "Paul and the Lethality of the Law: A Response to Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly's 'Sacred Violence'." Foundations and Facets Forum 9/1-2 (1994).

Gebauer, Gunther and Wulf, Christoph. "Soziale Mimesis." In Ethik der Ästhetik, ed. Wulf, Christoph, Kamper, Dietmar, and Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich, 75-84. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1994.

Gorz, André and Kitzmüller, Erich. "Solidarität als Weg in die politisch-zivile Gesellschaft." In Der kalte Blick der Ökonomie: 30 Gespräche, ed. Bammé, Arno, Berger, Wilhelm, Gerschlager, Caroline, and Gubitzer, Luise, 401-438. Technik- und Wissenschaftsforschung 22. München: Profil, 1993.

Kitzmüller, Erich. "Was kommt nach dem 'Sieg der Marktwirtschaft'?: Marktwirtschaft - das relativ bessere, absolut ungeeignete Lenkungssystem der Wirtschaft." In Centesimo anno: 100 Jahre katholische Soziallehre; Bilanz und Ausblick, ed. Palaver, Wolfgang, 239-276. Theologische Trends 4. Thaur: Kulturverlag, 1991.

Krondorfer, Bjorn. "Play Theology as a Discourse of Disguise." Literature & Theology 7/4 (December 1993): 365-380.

Miller, Richard B. "Violent Pornography: Mimetic Nihilism and the Eclipse of Differences." Soundings 69/3 (1986): 326-346.

Muray, Philippe. "L'Affaire Satan." In To Honor René Girard, ed. Juilland, Alphonse, 237-257. Stanford French and Italian Studies 34. Saratoga, Calif.: Anma Libri, 1986.

Osborne, L.E. "Crisis of Degree in Shakespeare's 'Henriad'." Studies in English Literature (1500-1900) 25/2 (1985): 337-359.

Poenicke, K. "Body, Violence, Text: Probings Toward an Ecological Reading of American Prose." American Studies 31/1 (1987): 173-186.

Ruston, Roger. "The War of Religions and the Religion of War." In Studying War - No More? From Just War to Just Peace, ed. Wicker, Brian, 129-141. Kampen: Kok Pharos Publishing House, 1993.

Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. "Gewalt gegen Frauen." Concilium 30/2 (April 1994): 95-107.

Siebenrock, Roman. "Glauben ohne Feindbilder. Vom Christsein in Europa nach dem Ende des 'Christlichen Abendlandes'." In Christliches Abendland - Ende oder Neuanfang?, ed. Siebenrock, Roman, 25-44. Theologische Trends 6. Thaur: Kulturverlag, 1994.

Smith, B.K and Doniger, W. "Sacrifice and Substitution: Ritual Mystification and Mythical Demystification." Numen: International Review for the History of Religions 36/2 (1989): 189-224.

Waldschütz, Erwin. "Was ist "Personalismus"?." Die Presse, 24 December 1993, XII.

Ward, Graham. "Mimesis: The Measure of Mark's Christology." Literature & Theology 8/1 (March 1994): 1-29.

7) Books applying the mimetic theory

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

Girard, René. Quand ces choses commenceront ... Entretiens avec Michel Treguer. Paris: arléa, 1994.

Grande, Per Bjørnar. Antropologisk troslaere. Skriftserien 7. Sogndal: Sogndal laerarhøgskule, 1993.

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

Hardie, Philip. The Epic Successors of Virgil: A Study in the Dynamics of a Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Kaptein, Roel. Violence in the Family. Coleraine: The Corrymeela Press, 1994.

Schwager, Raymund. Brauchen wir einen Sündenbock?: Gewalt und Erlösung in den biblischen Schriften. Thaur: Kulturverlag, 3. Auflage 1994.

8) Articles applying the mimetic theory

Collins, D. "Ritual Sacrifice and the Political-Economy of Music." Perspectives of new Music 24/1 (1985): 14-23.

Fuchs, Gotthard. "Gewalt und Passion: Plädoyer für mehr Dramatik in Theologie und Kirche." rus (=Religionsunterricht an höheren Schulen) 37 (1994): 88-93.

Girard, René. "Die Einheit von Ethik und Ästhetik im Ritual." In Ethik der Ästhetik, ed. Wulf, Christoph, Kamper, Dietmar, and Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich, 69-74. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1994.

Girard, René. "Is There Anti-Semitism in the Gospels?." Biblical Interpretation 1/3 (November 1993): 339-352.

Grande, Per Bjørnar. "Syndebukkmekanismer og mimetiske bindinger: En presentasjon av René Girards teori (Scapegoatmechanism and mimetic bind: A Presentation of René Girards theories)." Kirke og kultur No.5 (1991): 451-456.

Grande, Per Bjørnar. "Thomas Bernhard og den nye innadvendthet (Thomas Bernahrd and the new inwardness)." Vinduet No.2 (1992): 51-54.

Grande, Per Bjørnar. "Laererrollen og religion i skolen et forsøk pa a anvende Girards teorier pa religionsdidaktikken (Religion in School and The Role of The Theacher: An Attempt to use Girards Theories on Religious Didactics)." Norsk Pedagogisk tidsskrift No.2 (1994): 114-126.

Hallman, Joseph M. "Am I Born a Sinner? Augustine of Hippo and René Girard." The Irish Theological Quarterly 59/2 (1993): 81-93.

Hamilton, J.F. "Mimetic Desire in Musset's 'Lorenzaccio'." Kentucky Romance Quarterly 32/4 (1985): 347-357.

Heinzelmann, Herbert. "Der Fremde als Sündenbock: Õber die mythischen Wurzeln der Gewalt." Evangelische Kommentare No.6 (1994): 349-351.

Kitzmüller, Erich. "Woher kommt die Destruktivität des siegreichen Wirtschaftsstils? Wirtschaft als problematische Gewaltregulierung." Kurswechsel No.1 (1994): 47-55.

Kitzmüller, Erich. "Die Herkunft der Zukunft. Reflexionen zur Modellbildung in der Ökonomie." In Der verlorene Glanz der Ökonomie. Kritik und Orientierung, ed. Berger, Wilhelm and Pellert, Ada, 75-128. Wien: Falter Verlag, 1993.

Kitzmüller, Erich. "Marktwirtschaft - eine absolut ungeeignete Wirtschatftsordnung: Ökonomische Probleme und die Lösungskompetenz von Märkten." In Vom 'obsoleten' zum 'adäquaten' marktwirtschaftlichen Denken, ed. Beigewum (=Beirat für wirtschafts- gesellschafts-und umweltpolitische Alternativen), 75-91. Marburg: Metropolis-Verlag, 1992.

Lépine, Jacques-Jude. "La mimesis borgesienne." Les Saisons de St Jean (Printemps 1987): 45-59.

Lépine, Jacques-Jude. "Figures de l'autonomie chez Montesquieu." Constructions (1989): 8-25.

Lépine, Jacques-Jude. "La foule tragique dans Berenice." Les Saisons de St Jean (1987): 35-49.

Lépine, Jacques-Jude. "La barbarie à visage divin: mythe et rituel dans Athalie." French Review 64/1 (1990): 19-31.

Lépine, Jacques-Jude. "Agatha Christie maitresse du soupcon." Stanford French Review 16/1 (1992): 95-109.

Lépine, Jacques-Jude. "Cette vérité enfouie sous les formes." Stanford French Review (Fall-Winter 1988): 345-365.

Lépine, Jacques-Jude. "Le Neveu souterrain." Construction (1986): 53-54.

Niewiadomski, Józef. "Einmaligkeit und Anspruch. Jüdisch-christliche Tradition in einer multikulturellen Welt." Theologisch-praktische Quartalschrift 142/1 (1994): 3-11.

Palaver, Wolfgang. "Die religiöse Dimension des Nationalismus." Theologisch-praktische Quartalschrift 142/3 (1994): 225-233.

Schwager, Raymund. "Kontraproduktive Folgen? - Gefahren beim Streben nach einem schnellen Konsens." Theologisch-praktische Quartalschrift 142/1 (1994): 23-31.

Compiler: Dietmar Regensburger


Reports from the COV&R Conference in Wiesbaden June 8-11, 1994

Symposium: Theology and/or Secular Thinking: Discussion on Political Philosophy, Economy, and Sociology

The symposium started with a clear-cut contribution of J.P. Dupuy: modern society is basically a society of the market which is regulated by self-organization. With the help of the great authors of political economy (Smith, Hayek, Keynes) it can be shown that self-organization arises from mimesis in the Girardian sense. Furthermore, by comparing group psychology in Freud's theory and speculation on the stock market, it can be demonstrated that mass processes themselves produce an internal fixed point, which, however, seems to be an externally given guide-post due to the immense complexity of interactions. Consequently, the market society contains violence, in the double meaning of the word.

In their "critical responses" H. Assmann and E. Kitz müller directed their attention above all to the question of violence. Both acknowledged that in Dupuy's analyses many things were seen in the right way, but both of them also emphasized that the market produced an enormous amount of victims. Assmann verified this statement from the perspective of the Third World, and he underlined that it was important to distinguish between self-organization (as a positive term to describe life) and self-regulation (in the sense of the market). Kitzmüller, in turn, claimed the following: "In my view, whatever argument may be raised as to the validity and reach of R. Girard's descriptions of pre-modern and non-modern societies, it is modern postreligious and desacralizing society that can best be understood by applying this peculiar type of thinking in the way J.P. Dupuy does it." On the other hand, he insistently pointed to the enormous destructive effects of modern society, and therefore described the whole modern "economy as a victimizing mechan ism" (see also M. Serres in the first issue of Contagion).

In his reply to these queries, Dupuy acknowledged that the market actually produced many victims; he, however, emphasized above all the difference in the status of the victims: While sacred societies have been polarized towards the victims and thus structured from inside, modern society produces many victims only indirectly and is not interested in them. The market functions as if the victims would not exist, and therefore the mechanism is independent of them.

The provocative contribution of J. Milbank showed a completely different view. Starting with the problematic nature of signs, he emphasized that all reality has always been an interpreted reality. He therefore shows a very skeptical attitude towards all attempts to construct universal theories of society. In this respect, he criticized Dupuy as well as the Girardian hypothesis, which assumes victims behind all cultural forms. Even if this might be true in many cases, no universal theory could be drawn up. R. Girard agreed with Milbank on the point that a practice of non-violence was decisive for theology and that all social theories were to be criticized from this perspective. - In reply to Milbank, E. Arens defended the independent role of social science and its importance for theology. Following Peukert, he developed his own view of theology, which basically comes from social sciences.

Both P. Dumouchel and W. Palaver put the problematic issue theology-social sciences in concrete terms by interpreting Hobbes in two different ways. According to Dumouchel, Hobbes gave a theoretical, but ineffective answer and two practical answers to the political problem of religion. Dumouchel stated that Hobbes saw the first practical reply in the subjection of the church under the state and that Hobbes outlined a secularization caused by Christianity itself as a second reply, "a complete disenchantment of the world and a perfect separation of religion and politics". Dumouchel also regarded this perfect separation of religion and politics as the only possible solution to the political problem of religion. In contrast, Palaver underlined that Hobbes saw Christianity in a very one-sided way and therefore one could only speak of a secularization of the sacred aspect of medieval Christianity. Palaver then reconstructed the Christian world on which Hobbes focussed, as well as his own solutions as various forms of the "katechon" (see 2 Thess. 2:6f), a word that was often brought up in the following contributions and discussions. This katechon, according to Paul, is a power that holds back the apocalypse, but also the second coming of the kingdom of Christ. The word "katechon" (participle of "katechein") means both "hold back, stop, delay" and "encompass, contain". The "katechontic powers" consequently have the same structure as the market interpreted by Dupuy: they contain (in the double meaning of the word) violence.

A big discussion which then followed showed above all the difference between Dupuy and Dumouchel, on the one hand, and Milbank, on the other hand, while Girard and Palaver held complex interpositions. - In his own lecture, Girard went into the problematic nature of signs and re ferentiality. According to him, signs and imaginings do not merely refer to other signs and imaginings. Especially by mentioning the Dreyfus-affair as an example, he demonstrated that the question of truth inevitably came up in spite of the society's interpretation of reality.

H. Büchele brought again a new approach with the topic of world authority. He pleaded for "a World Republic of freely allied Nation-States", since only such a World Republic would give hope to solve at least partly major problems of today (violence, environment, inequality among the peoples). With that he simultaneously showed how framing conditions might be imposed on the in ternational market, which would cause a reduction, at least, of victims and a better cost distribution.

In the course of the symposium, a number of further interesting contributions were given; with regard to the schedule, however, they were only indirectly part of the ongoing discussion. G. Pattery gave a very good insight into the problematic nature of violence in India from a "Gandhian perspective", and indicated possibilities for a dialogue between Gandhi and Girard. S. Cochetti spoke about Heidegger and Adorno's criticism of Heidegger "from a Neomimetic Viewpoint", and in this context he brought up the question about "rationality or gratuity in sacrifice". - K. Thomas spoke about "scapegoats in political life today" and demonstrated how we have to live with endless crises nowadays. - E. Nordhofen commented on the instrumentalization of the evil and dealt especially with R. Nozick's book "The examined Life", in which the Holocaust is made the "turning point of human history". "Nozick stipulates a theological interpretation by stressing the holistic part of 'Holocaust'-Semantic. Holo caust is the incarnation of the evil, which qualifies human history as a whole. His conclusion is: mankind deserves to perish."

With the last two contributions the emotion side was also again strongly addressed at the symposium. J. Pahl showed pictures of "the Vietnam Veterans Memorial" in Washington and very insistently asked whether this "memorial" was a national shrine to arouse the scapegoat- mechanism. - D. Morrow depicted very concretely the violence in Northern Ireland and a radical process of remembrance. He described above all how both sides endlessly remember the atrocities of the other side and live from them. In this way, the fronts would again and again be established and hardened. Reconciliation would only be possible if one also remembered his/her own atrocities and could forgive the others.

Raymund Schwager (transl. by B. Palaver)

Workshop on the Mimetic Model in Psychology and Psychotherapy (Chair: Roel Kaptein)

Among the eight or so people attending the workshop, the question of how to reduce violence emerged in the form of the question of how to fend it off, defend oneself against it, or avert it when faced with a potential aggressor.

Some participants could recount situations in which they were victims of violent aggression, while others could only o outline or project situations in which they apprehended it and wondered what they would do, could do, or should do to avert it. A man is approaching you on the street: is he holding an apple or a club behind his back, and what does one do in the anxiety generated by that uncertainty?

No answer emerged in that portion of the discussion that was clear and satisfactory to all, but instanciations, examples, anecdotes bearing on this situation elicited some commonly shared conclusions about violence. They might qualify as structural intuitions of a generalizable if not always usable, practical kind. [1] As scenes or scenarios emerged from the experience or apprehension of violence in places as distant from one another as Northern Ireland, Uganda, USA, and Europe, there was some consensus about the fact that violence tends to be the same everywhere, that it destructures, de- differentiates, decontextualizes, such that the particularities of a situation, its time and place, cede in significance to the self-same structure of aggressor and victim. It is fairer to say that this was more an issue for discussion than unanimous conclusion. [2] Aggression and fear of aggression are not static, polar opposites that are neatly and definitively separable: rather, they are in a continuum, something like two sides of the same coin perhaps, such that one person's expression of fear can foment another's expression of aggression or feelings of hostility. Examples from personal. experience as well as from journalistic reporting and film scenarios tended to bolster this assertion.

This prompted the observation that something like an opening for peaceful encounter might emerge by not allowing one's fear to mirror back to an aggressor his hostility. Our feelings and emotions are not ours, like a possession or tool that we alone control; they come from the outside, from others, from our relations with them, and our freedom from violence might depend on our freedom from fears that inspire or encourage hostility in others.

The continuum of fear and hostility is available to structural or diagrammatic analysis in the form of facing poles, each shaded according to the feelings of hostility and fear transmitted between them. If one pole is unshaded, as characteristic of an open, peaceful and free demeanor, there is a Chance that this disposition may contaminate the potentially hostile pole. If fear and hostility are contagious, so is freedom the fact that we are historical beings and not instinctual creatures means that we can change, and changes in us can effect changes in others. We are most often unaware of our rivalry with others, but that rivalry functions as a constant check an our freedom.

Andrew J. McKenna

Workshop on Mimetic Theory and Biblical Literature (Chair: James G. Williams)

Papers were given by Norbert Lohfink, "The Destruction of the Seven Nations in Deuteronomy and the Mimetic Theory," James Williams responding, and by Vern Redekop, "Ethical Projection and the Torah in Light of the Mimetic Theory," Anthony Bartlett responding. The attendance was good, up to 35 at one point, and the discussion lively.

Lohfink argued that Deuteronomy, contrary to Weinfeld's hypothesis, represents a thoroughgoing resacralization rather than secularization. Although a certain desacralization of the sacrificial cult has taken place, this must be placed in the much larger context of the true sacrum according to Deuteronomy: the people and the land. They are separated from all profane reality. Therefore, anything that threatens the purity, the integrity of people and land, is dangerous and taboo. This is the "negative holy," as Prof. Lohfink calls it. The greatest danger of all comes not from the foreign gods and peoples who are outside the holy people in its holy land, but from foreign gods and peoples who are within it, viz. the seven nations that are to be dispossessed and any Israelite city that falls back into idolatry. Lohfink identified the problem of mimesis as what the Deuteronomic vision perceives as the greatest danger. The power of the sacred in the representation of archaic cultic symbols and practices is such that Israel might "do as" the other nations unless the latter be eliminated from the holy people and the holy land. The new sacralization propagated through Deuteronomy betrays an underside of preoccupation with the ancient sacred, the negative sacred or holy. In response, James Williams highlighted Deuteronomy's preoccupation with sacred boundaries and the military, in which we encounter the holy as differentiation and organized violence. These highlighted themes were the point of departure for further reflections which noted Deuteronomy's desacralizing and demythologizing tendencies, but which emphasized that the problem is fundamentally with the sacred itself, which is the very basis of definition and differentiation and which always requires an excluded other. The only resolution of the sacred would be its dissolution and transformation into a divine-human community. Discussion focused on the question of Deuteronomic exclusiveness and whether, to qualify that judgment, Deuteronomy should be viewed as a step forward in the desacralization process generated by the historical transmission of revelation.

The Deuteronomic vision of a society without poor or needy provided a problematic link between Lohfink's thesis of an ideal sacred land and people and Vern Redekop's description of Torah as "ethical projection." One of Deuteronomy's costs in building perfect social justice among Israelites was the sacral elimination of the "seven nations." Redekop analyzed the macro-structure of the Primary History, comprising the first nine books of the Bible (David Noel Freedman), in illustrating the Torah as teaching. Such analysis was a necessary balance to an over-emphasis on liberation in Exodus, and gave an understanding of Torah as the casting forward in time of an ethical vision. The remembrance of slavery becomes a determination that the liberated ones would not repeat the cycle of oppression. The problem is whether and how this reading gains primacy--solidarity over selfishness, the victim over sacrificial ideology. In the response Anthony Bartlett suggested there is an internal dialogue in Scripture, interwoven from the first chapters of Genesis. A continuum of reinterpretation reaches down to the present time, moving from the God of the sacred to the God of the victim and interrupting given languages to create new economies of meaning. Emmanuel Levinas has worked in this direction presenting the face-to-face as the primordial ethical condition in which I am always indebted to the Other. Discussion centered on the diffi culty of responding to the demands of the oppressed out of systemic privilege. The only constant is the image of the victim continuing to knock at the door of contemporary consciousness.

Anthony Bartlett and James Williams

Workshop on Mimetic Theory and Literature (Sandor Goodhart & Jacques-Jude Lépine, co-chairs)

As Jean-Pierre Dupuy once wrote, great literary works are not only the natural soil of the theory of René Girard, they are integral part of it, allowing for the expression of all its flexibility and nuances; therefore, to isolate the theory from its natural milieu would be comparable to striping out the flesh from the bones in a living body. This highly sacrificial metaphor explains the relevance of the Workshop on Mimetic Theory and Literature for a meeting otherwise mainly devoted to the sociological and theological implications and resonances of Girard's work.

The workshop was very well attended (about 40 participants). Each presentation was followed by convivial, lively, and stimulating exchanges, despite difficult time constraints which regrettably prevented a full discussion of the very interesting and creative analyses presented. As one may expect, these presentations were, each one in its own unique way, superb enactments of the dialectics between mimetic theory and world literature, and suggested altogether that much remains to be done concerning how literature nourishes the theory as well as the pertinence of the theory for literary investigation. The diversity of contributors, mixing literary academics as well as creative, independent essayists, was also a healthy source of refreshing enlightenment. Many thanks to:

Michael Elias (Lexis Linguistic Agency, Holland): "Mimetic Theory & Neck Riddles"

Per Bjørnar Grande (Songdal School of Education, Norway): "Stavrogin, a Study in Childhood, Deceit and Desire"

Michael Hardin (New York): "Christologies in Conflict" (in Kierkegaard)

William Johnson (High Point University, N.C.): "The Dance of Doubles: Reciprocity and Violence in Flannery O'Connor"

Nancy Kattenberg Schuler (Hilversum, Netherlands): "Metamorphosis, a Crime Story? Kafka's Novel in the Light of René Girard's Theory"

Sonja Pos (Amsterdam, Holland): "Mimesis and Betrayal in the Work of Willem Friedrick Hermans"

(for technical reasons, Jürgen Kaube could not be there to present "Towards a Sociology of Mimetic Communication in Modern Literature")

Jacques-Jude Lépine



Eugene Webb, The Self Between: From Freud to the New Social Psychology of France. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1993. xi + 268 pp.

Eugene Webb intends to offer with this book, which is beautifully titled, "a sketch of some important developments in recent French thought--principally, though not exclusively, psychological thought" (vii). In the first chapter (3-25) he outlines "The Cultural Situation of Psychoanalytic Thought in France," showing the cultural reasons as to why Freud's work became eventually deeply imbedded in French thought. This, however, was possible only because "France has remained France, and the French Freud is a Freud considerably altered" (4). It is a beautiful and enlightening overview of French cultural life after World War II, with roots reaching back into the 17th century (Descartes). Kojève and Lacan are among those who are treated. Chapter 2, "French Critiques of Freud" (26- 86) offers insights into the work of Francois Roustang, Marie Balmary, and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. This, again, is a beautiful, well-balanced treatment, showing a deep knowledge of the authors involved. Balmary in particular might be a surprise, because she is the least known of the three and certainly not the least interesting of them.

Having provided this interesting and very relevant context, Webb describes in chapter 3 "René Girard and the Psychology of Mimetic Desire" (87-119). It is, to repeat, an achievement to offer insights into the complicated material with the help of stories and quotations from literature. Nevertheless, in some respects it is the least clear chapter of the book. Especially for those who don't know Girard's work, it is difficult to understand clearly what model-rival and model-obstacle relationships are, how they come into being, and what their consequences are. The same is the case with external and internal mediations. The former certainly is not always "cooperative or benign modeling" (119), although of course it is our only chance to find freedom (cf. 150). Nor does it become clear that all relationships in the context of the mimesis of desire are double binds and not only model-obstacle relationships (95, 189).

Chapter 4, "Jean-Michel Oughourlian and the Psychology of the Interdividual" (120-51), is a good treatment of the work of this longtime friend and collaborator of Girard. Chapter 5, "The Social and Political Dimension in the Girardian School" (152-75), describes the hypothesis concerning the origin of culture, showing that Girard builds on the work of predecessors. Chapter 6, "Psychology and Transcendence: Beyond the Interdividual" (174-207), first deals with "René Girard on True and False Transcendence," presenting Girard's insights on the gospel and his position concerning "Christianity." The other part of this chapter is on "Marie Balmary and the Knife of Differentiation." The last part is especially interesting for Girardians. Balmary remains Lacanian, but is in many respects near to Girard, although I think not as close as Webb occasionally tries to show.

All these chapters are very interesting and stimulating, both for "Girardians" and those who are not yet and never will be. They should be read very carefully, for they continually provoke to further thinking. It is a book to meditate on and not simply to read.

The last chapter, chapter 7, "From Psychology to Philosophy of Consciousness" (208-48), is the real pièce de résistance of the book. We could expect that of the author of Philosophers of Consciousness. It is certainly a necessary chapter and at the same time a very controversial one.

The first question is whether the mimetic model and its application, the hypothesis about the origin and character of human culture, is really psychology. I don't think so. It is (an) anthropology. We should not move, in my opinion, from anthropology to philosophy, as if philosophy were the next stage. That is admittedly the classic step. Nevertheless, from the Girardian viewpoint philosophy is a part of anthropology and not the other way round. Philosophy as a human undertaking is an expression of metaphysical desire, which, by the way, is stressed time and again by Webb. It is a pity that Eric Gans, who is very clear about this, is not even mentioned in the book. But of course he is American, though a bit French in the sense that his first works were all published in France.

Furthermore, I cannot believe that we will ever be able "to transcend mimetism" (220), as I cannot believe in value (226) or in the fundamental, and in this context useful, difference between appetitites and needs on the one hand and desires on the other. Our only chance is to come into mimesis with the only one who was outside of the mimesis of desire, with Jesus, in external mediation. In that way we find freedom and our real differences, as the quotation from Raymund Schwager (230-31) shows clearly. I would add that this freedom is not only about existing differences (231) but also about new ones, human possibilities which never get a chance in the culture of the mimesis of desire. And I agree that for this freedom we need "repentance" and "conversion" (243-44).

In our type of culture the great theme of life is metaphysical desire. Webb stresses the importance of this throughout the book, although less consistently in the last chapter. In our modern culture it could be that we get less and less freedom from metaphysical desire and because of that we strive all the more for this freedom. However, we cannot strive for it because liberation from metaphysical desire is given to us, in a relationship of freedom. In that very moment our consciousness changes and is enriched.

The content of this chapter is rich. The theme is set in a broad context, with pages on Newman and Heidegger and, again, Balmary. It is a wonderful introduction for the discussion in which this review participates. By the way, in this chapter Eugene Webb gives the impression somewhat of being romantic and that is lovely, even if I can't agree.

A beautiful book, carefully written, nicely made.

Roel Kaptein


Hans J. Lundager Jensen, René Girard. Fredriksberg: ANIS, 1991.

"Girards hypotese er dermed i stand til-igen: på dette punkt-at forbinde viden og etik som én og samme sag." (93)

Hans J. Lundager Jensen's book is a lucid, compact exposition of Girard's thinking. The ANIS series which it inaugurates aims to offer short but self-contained expositions of major thinkers, without the heavy weight of footnotes and secondary sources. (They have followed Jensen's book with Lévinas by Peter Kemp). Why is René Girard such a good book? Most COV&R subscribers have faced the task of summarising at least an element of Girard's work, in order to affiliate it to their own, in print, in conference, or in class. We can appreciate what Jensen has done. We must credit Jensen first, but there are also conditions which make Girard's work travel well. First of all, Girard himself, always a clear writer, has never been more successful at representing his thinking. In general, his work after Des choses cachées sets the mimetic hypothesis to incontrovertible proofs.

But that is not enough. Discussion within the disciplines of anthropology, classical studies, psychology, and literary studies since Des choses cachées has been uneven. Why do scholars like Jensen (a lecturer at The Institute for the Old Testament, at Aarhus University) read Girard so well? Biblical studies as a discipline has always held open the possibility that a text knows more than its reader. This salutary and unmodish attitude is at the beginning of Girard's work (Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque), and has characterised his thinking throughout his career: the theoretical potential, the representational power of texts now called literary to tell us something we don't already know.

Jensen's book has chapters on "Literature and Mimetic Desire", "Anthropology and Religion," The Biblical Readings," and "Girard's Hermeneutic." As one would expect, Jensen pays close and careful attention to Girard on things hidden siden verdens grundlæggelse, but there is also an excellent exposition of Girard on modern mimetic desire in the early modern novel. Jensen regenerates Girard's hypothesis by rethinking it from one end to the other, convincing himself of its truth. In the process, if one reads very carefully, he occasionally clarifies relations to Girard's antecedents that are only hinted at in Girard's own work.

I wish that Jensen had discussed Girard's remarkable interventions into contemporary discussions of representation. Girard suggests in Des choses cachées that symbolism itself originates in the scapegoat effect, the one singled out from the many. Further, he challenges orthodox and defeatist notions of referentiality in Le bouc émissaire. Girard's claim that everyone (except literary intellectuals) believes that the texts of persecution indicate real Jews and real suffering belongs in Jensen's discussion of forfølgelsestekster.

As the few quotations above suggest, René Girard is written in Danish. I hope it will be available in English soon, for it is an ideal book to recommend to one's students, as well as those colleagues whose sudden interest in Girard must be fed from a single work. (The Shakespearian in any English Department, in my experience).

Don't wait for René Girard to be translated. Most Girardians have profited from watching his ideas circulate through French, English, German, Spanish and Italian. It is a pleasure to feel one's schema for Girard reappear in another language. Most members of COV&R know German and English well enough to triangulate Danish, and almost certainly once bought a version of Teach Yourself Danish that is still around the house, somewhere. Use it on this book.

Beyond Jensen? Kierkegaard, Ibsen, and Strindberg belong to that company of early modern writers chosen for Mensonge romantique who research the mediation of desire and the sacrificial ethos in modern society. They also deserve to be read in the original.

William A. Johnsen


Book Notes

This may or may not be a regular feature of the Bulletin. Many books are sent to me which I don't have time to review, at least at the moment, but which are worthy of more than a bibliographical listing. The appearance of a book in "Book Notes" does not preclude its subsequent review. Readers are invited to volunteer to write a regular review of any of the books that appear here.

James Alison's Knowing Jesus (Springfield: Templegate, 1994) is a marvelous use of the Girardian paradigm to explicate what it means to "know Jesus" as crucified Lord. In clear and informal language the author focuses on the "intelligence of the victim" as it came to and through the disciples. Alison's is a model discussion of memory, repentance, and forgiveness in the conversion process. -- Alison says that "Following Jesus meant learning not to be scandalized by him, not to be caused to stumble" (51). In The Scandal of the Gospels: Jesus, Story, and Offense (NY: Oxford, 1994), David McCracken analyzes and interprets the biblical meaning of scandal, and especially Jesus himself as skandalon. One of the virtues of his approach is the way in which he brings Girard's understanding of skandalon into fruitful contact with that of Søren Kierkegaard. -- A book by Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), is a good volume either to read or to use as a reference source. Although Childs scarcely ventures out of traditional biblical studies and theology, he is distinguished biblical scholar who takes the final form of the Christian canon seriously. (A Protestant, he could have done more with the Apocrypha.) The last chapter is titled "A Holistic Reading of Christian Scripture." -- Georg Baudler, in Töten oder Leben: Gewalt und Gewaltlosigkeit in Religion und Christentum (München: Kösel, 1994), continues his project of constructing a dialogue between Christianity and other religions on the fundamental issue of violence and the possibility of nonviolence. Including an extensive survey of texts from the Bible and the early church, he argues that the key to understanding the relation of violence and religion lies in an analysis of sacrifice. If I read him correctly, he seems to have moved toward greater agreement with Girard about originary violence, understanding sacrificial cults as based, in effect, on misrepresentation stemming from the victim, a mixing of the power of life with the power of death and destruction....With respect to the "power of life," Girard, in his interview with Rebecca Adams in Religion and Literature 25:2 (1993), clearly and decisively affirms that mimesis, which is the necessary condition of violence and ontically prior to representation, is good in principle because it is the possibility of opening the self to the world and living in love with others. This issue of Religion and Literature includes also essays by Diana Culbertson and Andrew McKenna. It can be ordered through Rebecca Adams. For her current address, contact me -- Finally, all readers of French who are committed to a Girardian project or who simply wish to observe the probing of the mind of a great thinker, will want to read the record of Girard's conversations with Michel Treguer, Quand ces choses commenceront (Paris: arléa, 1994). The conversations "cover the waterfront" in 186 pages of text. Most of Girard's responses he has long held, although he makes certain points with greater dramatic clarity in the discussion format. Mimetic desire is not evil at all, but it requires a good beginning (25); in fact, it is really very good in itself (70). He defines "political correctness" as "the religion of the victim detached from any transcendence, the social obligation to employ a veritable 'wooden victimary language' which stems from Christianity but which subverts it even more insidiously than open opposition" (65). A resolutely experimental science is democratic in principle in that it represents a break with an aristocratic world and world-view in which masters depend on their slaves and servants to care for them (83). The type of feminism that tries to revalue sorcery and witchcraft is misled in its strategy because one is only a sorcerer "by virtue of a system of accusation" (86). Those who commit themselves to humanity must struggle against nihilism, which is "the principal enemy" (102). To the question as to why René Girard arrives on the scene now rather than in the year1000 or 1500, he replies, "O my, there you're exaggerating! Three-quarters of what I say is already in St. Augustine" (196). There are at least two things really new in these interviews. One is Girard's admission, only recently stated in public and as far as I know never before in print, that in his books he has been too harsh with sacrificial systems. They function to contain violence, "thus to replace a possible generalized violence with a lesser violence, that of sacrifice" (109-10). The other is Girard's first public account of his Christian conversion (189-95).

James G. Williams


A Jewish-Christian Dialogue

Sandor Goodhart, "Isaiah 52-53, René Girard, and the Innocent Victim"

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

But a careful examination of Isaiah 52-53 reveals that this text is entirely coincident with the theory of the innocent victim, although it appears some six hundred years prior to the texts of the Christian Gospel. There is nothing that Girard says about the innocent victim in Christianity which is not already fully present in Isaiah 52-53. As a consequence, we need to reexamine Girard's claim for the Gospel's singularity.

There would seem a limited number of possibilities, none entirely satisfactory. The first is that Christianity really is unique--as both Girard and other Christians claim--but its uniqueness is not based on the disclosure of the innocent victim (as Girard asserts) but rather upon some other consideration which remains to be articulated. The second is that Christianity is not unique (although Girard and Christians say it is) and that it is only an episode in the history of its religious predecessor and of which it remains--in its themes and content (and all denials of such affiliation to the contrary)--an unwitting or unwilling extension. The third possibility is that Christianity really is unique (as both Girard and Christians say), that such uniqueness is rooted in the understanding of the innocent victim (as Girard claims), but that the correspondence between the two--the innocent victim in Isaiah and the innocent victim in the Gospel--is incomplete, although precisely the ways in which this discussion should continue remains to be elaborated.

There are problems with each view. The problem with the first proposal is that the Girardian explanation is convincing. Although Christians may continue to debate the matter, there is no obstacle from a Jewish perspective to regarding the explanation that Girard offers as entirely compelling, both as an account of primitive culture, and (with some qualifications) as a distinguishing critical feature of the Gospel revelation. The second proposal must be rejected for similar reasons. Whether or not such a claim is acceptable from a Jewish point of view, it is certainly not so from a Christian perspective.

The third possibility is the most interesting. It maintains the revelatory status of Christianity and the linkage to Girard's theory. But it depends upon a perspective which remains to be articulated and is hard to fathom.

Could the uniqueness of Christianity rest, for example, upon the manner in which it takes up the themes of invasion and abandonment in family life? Is it possible that Christianity introduces into the history of the anti-sacrificial what may be termed the "self-sacrificial," or, more precisely, dynamics of self-construction that appear to be fundamental to Christianity which are precisely the lines of the mimetic and the conflictual that Girard has been developing? Moreover, these dynamics may even account for the appearance of the Christian with the history of Pharisaic Judaism, and yet that have not yet been articulated? Rather than compare early Christian texts to the Hebrew texts of the ancient sixth century, it might be more fruitful to set them beside contemporary Judaic texts--for example from the Talmud or Midrash--in which different approaches to the same Jewish filigree are evident.

Such largely unattempted reflections may enable us to expose the distant and sometimes troubled relations between Judaism and Christianity to be more of a family quarrel than a clash of independent perspectives, and consequently may open us to the possibility reconciliation and even common pursuit.

Raymund Schwager, "Reply to Sandor Goodhart"

I very much appreciate the fact that Sandor interprets the Hebrew bible in the light of Isaiah 52-53. In this way, a Jewish and a Christian understanding of the Revelation come quite close to each other.

A longer answer would be necessary in order to reply to Sandor's question as to why Girard and Christians nevertheless claim the Gospel's uniqueness. Therefore, I can only outline a few points here, and I also want to pose some counter-questions.

1) As Jesus Christ is clearly the center in the New Testament, all messages have to be interpreted from the perspective of his person. Therefore the revelation of sacred violence, as it happened in his fate and above all in his violent death, belongs to the center of the New Testament. In contrast to that the Hebrew Bible does not have such a center. Thus there are always other competing interpretations besides an interpretation based on Isaiah 52-53 which actually could claim the same legitimacy. To my mind, the Hebrew Bible therefore calls for a further clarification by the New Testament. The Jewish view will reject this. Therefore my question: Which criteria are there from the Jewish point of view in order to find a clarification in the dispute of interpretations?

2) In Isaiah 52-53, it is not clearly shown whether a single person or the whole people is meant by the suffering servant. Therefore it remains open what God's help given to the servant actually means: a personal raising from the dead or the living on of the people suggested by verse 53:10. The Gospel, however, clearly tells that a historically concrete subject that had been killed was raised from the dead by God. Here it becomes evident that God does not continue history regardless of the dead person, but resurrects the dead person himself and makes him the cornerstone of a new community. Here God actually sides with the victim. Doesn't Isaiah 52- 53 need further clarification in this respect?

3) In Isaiah 53:4-5, people speak who have become converted in view of the servant. But those figures remain unclear and it is not said which consequences the converts have drawn for their entire understanding of the Revelation. - However, in the New Testament the names of the converts (the disciples of Jesus) are mentioned and it is explicitly shown that they have read the whole Scripture in the light of the violent death and the resur rection, due to their new insight into Jesus' fate and their conversion achieved by this insight. Where could we find anything analogous in Isaiah?

4) Before his death, Jesus claimed that he came from God in a unique way and was one with Him. This claim was the reason for his being rejected and, according to a Christian understanding, his claim was confirmed by God through his resurrection. The Christian faith derives from this that God's final truth has been revealed in Christ (Messiah) and that we do not have to wait for further revelations on earth. However, in the context of the servant of God, Isaiah speaks about the Persian king Cyrus as the anointed (Messiah). Doesn't an unsolved tension remain here between an acting of God through Cyrus and an acting through the suffering servant?

5) Girard analyzes the triangular structure of desire and shows how evil (rivalry, violence etc.) arises from it. - Due to Jesus's claim and the mission of the Spirit at Pentecost, the Christian faith tells us that God is the Holy Trinity. Isn't the experience of the Triune love necessary in order to overcome the triangular structure of desire at its root?

(trans. by B. Palaver)

Józef Niewiadomski, "Reply to Sandor Goodhart"

I agree with Sandy Goodhart that all Girard says about the revelation of the victim's innocence in the context of the Gospels can already be found in Isaiah 52-53. I also believe that the theological logic which is searching for the reason for the uniqueness of Christianity is well-advised if it finally looks for the roots of this uniqueness in the exegesis of the Songs of the Suffering Servant, as they themselves actually form the hermeneutic framework for the New Testament's description of the fate of Jesus Christ. Seen from this perspective, one should in fact be allowed to say that the New Testament's belief in Jesus Christ does not bring anything substantially new in view of what the Hebrew scriptures tell us. It actually does arise from one special interpretation of these scriptures. This, however, means: just as there cannot be the Gospels without the Songs of the Suffering Servant, also the Songs of the Suffering Servant can neither be without the other prophetic texts, nor without the psalms and the Torah. The christological creed means nothing but to declare a special logic regarding the order of secondary and primary text traditions of the binding logic. This is now anything but a secondary issue and (also) in the context of the rabbinical Judaism not self-evident. Thus the New Testament's perspective factually does not add anything new, but brings up its perspective; even more than that: it declares its perspective binding (for whatever reasons - to find out these reasons remains theology's task which permanently has to be solved anew). How is this to be understood? If we assume that the biblical logic lives from the confidence that the history of the people Israel is that place where God breaks his sacred veil in various situations and reveals his true face and the innocence of the victim, then the New Testament's logic lives from the belief that the potential of this entire biblical history be comes intensified - like in a microcosm - in the single historical existence: the existence of the jew Jesus of Nazareth. With this creed neither the Jewish tradition must be disavowed, nor must a uniqueness of Christianity be claimed that goes beyond Judaism and replaces it. Jesus of Nazareth remains Jewish, his passion remains the passion of the suffering servant. There is no doubt for me that the early Christian interpretation of this logic has come to a dead end by using the formula: Substitution of the Church for the Synagogue. It has not only deprived Jesus of his Jewish roots, but has also placed the passion narratives of the Gospels into a sacred context. Detached from the core of the biblical logic, the Gospels have lost their revealing power in favor of a sacralizing logic.

(trans. by B. Palaver)


COV&R Conference in Chicago, June 1-3, 1995

Mimesis, Violence, and the Subject of Responsibility

Loyola University of Chicago and its Department of Modern Languages and Literatures are in the process of planning and organizing a three day international conference, June 1-3, I 995, on Mimesis, Violence, and the Subject of Responsibility. Its purpose is to explore the practical implications of the mimetic model of human behavior developed by the international and interdisciplinary scholar-critic René Girard. For the first time, conference participants will debate the relations of ethics and praxis through the prism of relations outlined by the mimetic model and will focus on its practical implications for individual ethics and far institutional reform.

The aim of the conference is to bring theoreticians and practioners concerned with violence into fruitful, productive conversation. The thematic focus is the mimetic model of human behavior advanced by René Girard, most notably in Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World (Stanford UP, 1985), which has enjoyed best-seller status in France and been translated into 12 languages. The model has been the topic of a score of books hundreds of essays and several colloquia in the US and abroad.

Girard's theory holds that there are dimensions of religious tradition and practice that function very capably as a discovery procedure in understanding human affairs, but that there are other dimensions that effectively block understanding and thwart desirable progress. Rooted in the study of Western literary and religious texts, this model argues that desire is what makes us human and that it is essentially mimetic; that is, desire mimes, or imitates, other desires in its choice of objects. This condition frequently leads to violent conflict when desires converge on the same object. The theory furthermore argues that human communities control the violence that threatens their survival by diverting it more or less unanimously towards a scapegoat, individual or collective. The destruction or expulsion of the scapegoat stabilizes notions of communal identity and difference.

The need far open debate and discussion of Girard's theory is warranted by the increased interest in its scientific claims which highlight the sacrificial practices embedded in human interaction and recognize the necessity of understanding the religious dimensions of social relations that are often unsuspected. Girard's model consequently informs a sacrificial theory of culture. Its dynamics are legible in the exercise of violence today, where a seemingly randomized violence has replaced the earlier, more formal, ritualized practices developed to control it. The theory does nut urge that we return to sacrificial practices, but, on the contrary, that we learn to detect them iii the various individual and collective guises that the assume in the modern world.

The effectiveness of debate is ensured by the conference's focus on practical implications. The three day program will consist of 8 sessions convening morning, afternoon and evening. These will include workshops, formal presentations, discussion, and debates. Other critical sessions are the two workshops led by experienced and credentialed facilitators which will engage participants in exercises an Conflict Resolution and Prejudice Reduction.

Five theme complementary sessions will present and debate violence related issues in the fields of Communication, Women' Studies, Literary Interpretation, the Jewish-Christian dialogue, and Ethics and Community. The presenters' aim will be to elucidate a dimension of the mimetic model that is relevant to their research and chosen topic. In most cases, the formal respondents will be non-academic professionals in such areas as psychotherapy, pastoral work, crisis intervention, and conflict resolution.


New Books

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

Baudler, Georg. Töten oder Lieben: Gewalt und Gewaltlosigkeit in Religion und Christentum. München: Kösel, 1994.

Girard, René. Quand ces choses commenceront ... Entretiens avec Michel Treguer. Paris: arléa, 1994.

Grande, Per Bjørnar. Antropologisk troslaere. Skriftserien 7. Sogndal: Sogndal laerarhøgskule, 1993.

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

Kaptein, Roel. Violence in the Family. Coleraine: The Corrymeela Press, 1994.

Lagarde, François. René Girard, ou, La christianisation des sciences humaines. Sociocriticism 7. New York: P. Lang, 1994.

Schwager, Raymund. Brauchen wir einen Sündenbock?: Gewalt und Erlösung in den biblischen Schriften. Thaur: Kulturverlag, 3. Auflage 1994.


Future Events

AAR/SBL will meet November 19-22, 1994 in Chicago. COV&R meeting on Friday, November 18, 1994. (see under "A Note from the Executive Secretary," p. 2)

June 1-3, 1995: "Mimesis, Violence, and the Subject of Responsibility": Annual Conference of COV&R at Loyola University of Chicago. Organizer: Andrew McKenna.

AAR/SBL will meet again in November 18-21, 1995 in Philadelphia. We will presumably continue our practice of holding COV&R meetings at these conventions.