From the Stanford Report, Dec. 7, 2005:
“Rene Girard to join ranks of the ‘immortals’ with French Academy induction. … Girard will add to his list of honors and achievements this month, when he is inducted into the august French Academy, a body of 40 members founded by Cardinal de Richelieu in 1635. Known as the ‘immortals’ — in reference to a seal first used by Richelieu — its members have included Voltaire, Jean Racine and Victor Hugo. The honor is the highest that can be bestowed on an intellectual in France.”
The article offers a little background on Girard and his anthropology of mimesis:
“Girard, 82, was born in Avignon, France, and studied at the Ecole des Chartres Paris, where he specialized in medieval history. He came to the United States in 1947 for a year’s fellowship at Indiana University, where he stayed to complete a Ph.D. in history. Girard began his career teaching French literature and first wrote about his theory of ‘mimetic’ desire — that we learn from one another what it is that we desire — as a literary theorist analyzing the patterns of human behavior found in texts by Cervantes, Proust, Flaubert and others.
“Girard’s literary analysis noted that such desire inevitably results in rivalry, conflict and violence, and he began to apply his theory to the anthropology of religion, first in archaic religions and then in the Bible. In Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (Stanford University Press, 1987), which many regard as his most important work, Girard argued that the conflict that mimetic desire creates in human societies historically has been resolved by identifying a scapegoat, who is then sacrificed to restore order. Human society and religion from ancient to modern times are built upon the mechanism of scapegoating and the ritualized repetition of collective violence, he contends. In the book, Girard, who returned to Catholicism, presented a picture of a God, who contrary to the conception of a vengeful God, is ‘foreign to all forms of violence.'”
More about Girard from the Colloquium on Violence & Religion ; from Paul Nuechterlein’s Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary, one of the richest Girardian sites, which offers sermons based on Girardian anthropology and the introductory Girardian Anthropology in a Nutshell ; and Andrew Marr’s lengthy examination, Violence and the kingdom of God: Introducing the anthropology of Rene Girard, in the Anglican Theological Review (Fall 1998). I also offer some notes on Girardian thought.