Jean-Pierre Dupuy

April 19, 2011

For each of the following questions, please 1) infer from what you know about Girard's anthropology what the Girard take on these issues might be; 2) if need be, express and argue out your critique or disagreement.

1) "Oedipus is innocent!" That statement is common to Girard's theory of myths and to his demystification of the so-called Oedipus complex. What are the implications of this commonality? Start from the distinction between internal and external mediation. argue out your critique or disagreement.

2) Over the last decade a hot debate has been going on in Western Europe over whether it is not outrageous to lump together nazism and communism and subsume them under the same general label of "totalitarianism". It must be kept in mind that communism retains there much of its appeal among intellectuals and politicians alike (witness the fact that in the 2002 presidential election in France, out of 16 candidates 5 had some connection with communist and/or Trotskyist parties, including the incumbent Prime Minister!). argue out your critique or disagreement.

A book titled The Dark Side of Communism was published a few years ago in France. It revealed to those who still ignored it that crimes committed in the name of communism had been responsible for more than one hundred millions of victims throughout the world so far, as opposed to the six millions Jews exterminated by the Nazis. The outcry was huge and is still reverberating. argue out your critique or disagreement.

Does it make any sense to thus compare numbers of victims, as if they were made of the same common stuff? Aren't they qualitatively different? argue out your critique or disagreement.

3) A former student of Girard's, U.C.L.A. Professor of Generative Anthropology Eric Gans, wrote in October 2011: "Not long ago, I conceived the idea of a "post-millennial" era, defined by its abandonment of the victimary epistemology of the postmodern age. The defining issue seemed to be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The breakdown of the "peace process" and the renewed "Intifada" made it clear that the continued focus on the Palestinians as victims had become counterproductive for both sides; no real negotiations could take place when beneath all Palestinian demands was a sense of legitimized resentment on the model of the South African Blacks under apartheid. It seemed to me that a new age had begun in which the relatively easy answers of the previous era would have to give way to market-like processes of negotiation. argue out your critique or disagreement.

If it was not clear to everyone from the suicide bombings in Israel that resentment could no longer be legitimized within the political process, the September 11 events made this point much more decisively. Palestinian terrorism may be linked to legitimate—and, at least in principle, negotiable—grievances; Bin Laden's cannot. Just as the Holocaust inaugurated the postmodern era by making victimary resentment the preeminent criterion of political change, September 11 ended it by demonstrating the horrors such resentment can produce." argue out your critique or disagreement.

Please comment and argue from a "Girardian" perspective; then from your perspective. argue out your critique or disagreement.

4) Why is it so important for Girard to take up and own the point made by Nietzsche in his radical indictment of Christianity, namely that Christianity and primitive religions are very much alike as far as facts are concerned, in contrast with such religions as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.? How can Girard reverse the value judgment that Nietzsche derived from this observation? argue out your critique or disagreement.

In the same vein, how can Girard respond to the observation that the central rite of Roman Catholicism, namely the eucharist, is a sacrificial ritual, and even more, the performance of a human sacrifice, given the doctrine of transubstantiation (i.e. the host is Jesus Christ's body and the wine, His blood)? argue out your critique or disagreement.

5) How would you analyze O. Henry's heartwarming Christmas tale, "The Gift of the Magi", in light of the various and competing interpretations of gift exchange? Clue: what or who plays the role of the 3rd party in that tale? argue out your critique or disagreement.

http://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/Gift_of_the_Magi.html argue out your critique or disagreement.

6) In a recent book, Sacrifice (Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, 2011), René Girard focuses on the ancient Indian practices of Vedic sacrifice in comparison with the Christian biblical narrative. As for him, the author of the "Preface" writes the following: argue out your critique or disagreement.

"Under the sway of this dogma (sacrifice is a "conceptual illusion"), the majority of researchers have rejected the mimetic theory which reaffirms the enigmatic nature of sacrifice and sees its universality as rooted in the mimetic violence of all archaic groups, in the unanimous lynching of real victims— something produced spontaneously in disturbed communities, where it serves to restore peace. Communities deliberately reproduce these phenomena in their sacrificial rites, hoping in this way to protect themselves from their own violence by diverting it onto expendable victims, human or animal, whose deaths will not cause violence to rebound because no one will bother to avenge them." argue out your critique or disagreement.

Three little words in this short text are problematic in that they seem to contradict the spirit of mimetic theory as well as they threaten its internal consistency. Which are they and how would you reformulate the passage in order to render it closer to Girard's initial insight? argue out your critique or disagreement.

7) If we leave seven small children in a room with seven perfectly identical teddy bears and then come back a quarter hour later, there is good reason to bet that we will find all of them fighting over a single teddy bear that one of the children happened to claim for himself. Does this pet example of mimetic theory really decide anything? Aren't there alternative explanations? What are the implications for the tragic question we left unanswered: who mediates our irrepressible desire for a cup of Nespresso in the George Clooney ad? argue out your critique or disagreement.

8) Try to analyze this excerpt from the Gospel according to Luke in light of Girard's theory of Christianity: argue out your critique or disagreement.

I have come to set fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until the ordeal is over! Do you suppose I came to establish peace on earth? No indeed, I have come to bring division. For from now on, five members of a family will be divided, three against two and two against three; father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against motherÉ [Luke 12:49-53]