Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

Front Cover
Stanford University Press, 1987 - Literary Criticism - 480 pages
2 Reviews
An astonishing work of cultural criticism, this book is widely recognized as a brilliant and devastating challenge to conventional views of literature, anthropology, religion, and psychoanalysis. In its scope and itnerest it can be compared with Freud's Totem and Taboo, the subtext Girard refutes with polemic daring, vast erudition, and a persuasiveness that leaves the reader compelled to respond, one way or another.

This is the single fullest summation of Girard's ideas to date, the book by which they will stand or fall. In a dialogue with two psychiatrists (Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort), Girard probes an encyclopedic array of topics, ranging across the entire spectrum of anthropology, psychoanalysis, and cultural production.

Girard's point o departure is what he calles "mimesis," the conflict that arises when human rivals compete to differentiate themselves from each other, yet succeed only in becoming more and more alike. At certain points in the life of a society, according to Girard, this mimetic conflict erupts into a crisis in which all difference dissolves in indiscriminate violence. In primitive societies, such crises were resolved by the "scapegoating mechanism," in which the community, en masse, turned on an unpremeditated victim. The repression of this collective murder and its repetition in ritual sacrifice then formed the foundations of both religion and the restored social order.

How does Christianity, at once the most "sacrificial" of religions and a faith with a non-violent ideology, fit into this scheme? Girard grants Freud's point, in Totem and Taboo, that Christianity is similar to primitive religion, but only to refute Freud--if Christ is sacrificed, Girard argues, it is not becuase God willed it, but becaus ehuman beings wanted it.

The book is not merely, or perhaps not mainly, biblical exegesis, for within its scope fall some of the most vexing problems of social history--the paradox that violance has social efficacy, the function of the scapegoat, the mechanism of anti-semitism.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DavidCLDriedger - LibraryThing

Girard's basic thesis is well known; Human culture arose out of the resolution of mimetic desire. By nature we desire what is desired by others, this leads to conflict and ultimately murder ... Read full review

Contents

The Victimage Mechanism as the Basis of Religion
3
The Development of Culture and Institutions
48
The Process of Hominization
84
Myth The Invisibility of the Founding Murder
105
Texts of Persecution
126
Things hidden since the Foundation of the World
141
A NonSacrificial Reading of the Gospel Text
180
The Sacrificial Reading and Historical Christianity
224
INTERDIVIDUAL PSYCHOLOGY
281
Desire without Object
299
Mimesis and Sexuality
326
Psychoanalytic Mythology
352
Beyond Scandal
393
Notes
449
Bibliography
457
Index
465

The Logos of Heraclitus and the Logos of John
263

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

The Consuming Body
Pasi Falk
Limited preview - 1994
All Book Search results »

About the author (1987)

René Girard was born on December 25, 1923 in Avignon, France. He received an advanced degree in medieval studies at the École Nationale des Chartes in 1947 and a Ph.D. in history from Indiana University in 1950. He taught French language and literature at Indiana University, Duke University, Bryn Mawr College, Johns Hopkins University, and the State University at Buffalo. He taught at Stanford University from 1981 until his retirement in 1995. His explorations of literature and myth helped establish influential theories about how people are motivated to want things. His first book, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, was published in French in 1961 and in English in 1965. His other works included Violence and the Sacred and Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Modern Language Association in 2009 and the Order of Isabella the Catholic from the king of Spain for his work in philosophy and anthropology in 2013. He died on November 4, 2015 at the age of 91.

Bibliographic information