Books by Girard / Secondary Works / Articles / Internet Resources
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Books by René Girard (in chronological order)
Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965. [Originally published in French, 1961; translated by Yvonne Freccero.] Paperback, 318 pages. Girard's first major work, it introduces the first principle of Girardian theory, that of "mimetic desire" (called "triangular desire" in this first work) -- through the study of novels by Cervantes, Flaubert, Proust, Stendhal, and Dostoevsky.
Resurrection from the Underground: Feodor Dostoevsky. New York: Crossroad, 1997. [Originally pub. in French, 1963, trans. by James G. Williams.] Cloth, 167 pages. An extension of his first work, focusing on the life and work of Dostoevsky.
Violence and the Sacred. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977. [Originally published in French, 1972; trans. by Patrick Gregory.] Paperback, 333 pages. Girard's second major work, it introduces the second principle of Girardian theory -- namely, his anthropology of the mechanisms of victimage, or "scapegoating," that lie behind all of human culture -- through a study of classical Greek drama, Freud, and Levi-Strauss.
Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World. Research undertaken in collaboration with Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987. [Originally pub. in French, 1978; trans. by Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer.] Paperback, 469 pages. Girard's magnum opus. The third of his major works, it programmatically lays out Girard's entire theory in dialogue form, structured into three major "Books" entitled "Fundamental Anthropology," "The Judaeo-Christian Scriptures," and "Interdividual Psychology."
"To Double Business Bound": Essays on Literature, Mimesis, and Anthropology. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978. Paperback, 229 pages. A wide-ranging collection of essays.
The Scapegoat. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. [Originally published in French, 1982; trans. by Yvonne Freccero.] Paperback, 216 pages. Girard takes a different starting point, a mid-fourteenth century "text of persecution," to unravel his theory of myths and then to show how biblical texts demythologize the mythical viewpoint; roughly, one-half theory of myth and one-half biblical commentary. This is the book by Girard that I would recommend as best for an introduction. I think that it gives the best entry into his work as a scientific anthropology and then makes the transition to many of his most important biblical insights.
Job: The Victim of His People. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987. [Originally published in French, 1985; trans. by Yvonne Freccero.] Cloth, 173 pages. Girard uses and expounds his theory through a uniquely enlightening commentary on the biblical Book of Job.
A Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare. St. Augustine's Press, 2004. [Originally pub. by Oxford University Press, 1991,out of print.] Paper, 366 pages. Girard provides a comprehensive analysis of Shakespearean drama using his theories. It is a masterpiece of literary criticism befitting the master dramatist of the English language. Even the most learned of readers may discover a whole new Shakespeare (which is actually the same old Shakespeare understood in a whole new light).
Quand ces choses commenceront...Entretiens avec Michel Treguer. Paris: Arléa, 1994. Paper, 199 pages.
The Girard Reader. Edited by James G. Williams. New York: Crossroad, 1996. Cloth or Paperback, 310 pages. An anthology of basic texts designed to give a substantive introduction to Girard's thought and work, with an emphasis on his more recent positions; includes a brief biography, an interview, and a glossary of Girardian terminology.
I See Satan Fall like Lightning. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001. [Originally published in French, 1999, trans. by James G. Williams.] Paper, 256 pages. Girard addresses his concern to more clearly elaborate the relationship between myth and Gospel. I hold it as a close second to The Scapegoat as a good introduction by Girard himself. It begins in Part I by laying out his thesis with biblical concepts such as covetousness, skandalon, and Satan. Part II parallels the beginning of The Scapegoat, which used a 14th century "text of persecution"; here he uses a myth of the 2nd century, as between ancient myth and "texts of persecution" in development, to give another helpful entry point into mimetic theory's understanding of mythology. Part III parallels ch. 15 of The Scapegoat, "History and the Paraclete," by elaborating the work of the Spirit in the uniqueness of the biblical texts and in the modern "concern for victims" and reactions against it (such as Nietzsche and Nazism).
Celui par qui le scandale arrive: Entretiens avec Maria Stella Barberi. Paris: Brouwer, 2001. Paper, 192 pages.
Oedipus Unbound: Selected Writings on Rivalry and Desire. Edited by Mark Anspach. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004. Paper (or cloth), 216 pages. A collection of three major, hard-to-find essays by Girard, never available before in English, on Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and its implications for anthropology. These essays bridge his writing between Deceit, Desire, and the Novel and the developing thesis for Violence and the Sacred.
Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture. With Pierpaolo Antonello and Joao Cezar de Castro Rocha. London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2007. [Originally published in French, 2004.] Paper, 282 pages. This book in many ways is a 30-year retrospective on Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, even done in the same dialogue form. A newer element is not only the comparison to Darwin's theory but also greater clarity that Girard's theory is very much an evolutionary anthropology -- that is to say, homo sapiens was selected to survive among the various homonids on the basis of the scapegoat mechanism. But 100,000 years is a relatively short time in evolutionary theory, so the story of homo sapiens' survival as a species may still be in question -- which leads to Girard's next major book, Achever Clausewitz [Battling to the End].
Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith: A Dialogue. René Girard and Gianni Vattimo. Edited by Pierpaolo Antonello and translated by William McCuaig. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. [Originally published in Italian, 2006.] Cloth, 124 pages. "Through an exchange that is both intimate and enlightening, Vattimo and Girard share their unparalleled insight into the relationships among religion, modernity, and the role of Christianity, especially as it exists in our multicultural world."
Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2010. [Originally published in French as Achever Clausewitz, 2007.] Paper: 256 pages. "Girard engages Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), the Prussian military theoretician who wrote On War. He shows us a Clausewitz who is a fascinated witness of history's acceleration and pushes aside the taboo that prevents us from seeing that the apocalypse has begun. Human violence is escaping our control; today it threatens the entire planet." -- publisher's website. Clausewitz is placed alongside two of his contemporaries, Hegel the philosopher and Hölderlin the Christian poet, as well as the Christian apocalyptic texts (e.g., Mark 13). This is an immensely important book that promotes the only true foundation for hope. As Girard says in the Introduction, "Like Hölderlin, I think that Christ alone allows us to face this reality without sinking into madness. The apocalypse does not announce the end of the world; it creates hope. If we suddenly see reality, we do not experience the absolute despair of an unthinking modernity, but rediscover a world where things have meaning. Hope is possible only if we dare to think about the danger at hand, but this requires opposing both nihilists, for whom everything is only language, and 'realists,' who reject the idea that intelligence can attain truth: heads of state, bankers and soldiers who claim to be saving us when in fact they are plunging us deeper into devastation each day." (p. xiii)
Anorexie et désir mimétique. Herne, 2008.
amd Criticism, 1953-2005.
Edited with an Introduction by Robert Doran. Stanford, CA:
Press, 2008. Cloth, 310 pages.
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Secondary Works on René Girard and Applying His Theories
Alberg, Jeremiah. A Reinterpretation of Rousseau: A Religious System. Foreward by René Girard. Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Hardcover, 252 pages.
Creations: Intimations of a Great Reversal. New
York: Continuum, 2010. Paper, 292 pages.
As the jacket notes describe, "Unforgettable and moving, these
remarkable essays show James Alison at his irrepressible best."
Alison, James. Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay. New York: Crossroad, 2001. Paperback, 239 pages. As the jacket notes describe, "This is not a book of gay theology but, much more daringly, of catholic theology from a gay perspective." Stanley Hauerwas says, 'Like all James Alison books, Faith Beyond Resentment is frighteningly profound.... Alison's readings train us to undertake the slow and painful work of living free of resentment. So taught we discover how debates about "homosexuality" can be repositioned from the stance of "us" versus "them" to "us" versus "us." So positioned we may even learn to accept the salvation that is ours in Christ.' Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, comments on this book: "The very best theological books leave you with a feeling that perhaps it's time you became a Christian. This is emphatically such a book."
Alison, James. The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes. New York: Crossroad, 1998. Paperback, 323 pages. This original work of theological anthropology looks at Original Sin in the light of the Resurrection and, from this point of view, is able to read all the major doctrines of Christianity from the order of discovery. Sebastian Moore says in his foreword, "One should, one can, never say of a theological work that it is the definitive statement on its subject. But very occasionally one is tempted to do so, and this book represents that temptation in acute form."
Alison, James. Knowing Jesus. Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, 1994. Paperback, 114 pages. A wonderful expression of basic Christian theology based on the perspective of the victim as vindicated by God through the Resurrection. It is an excellent and readable introduction to the Girardian thought-process for the Christian faith.
Alison, James. On Being Liked. New York: Herder & Herder, 2004. Paperback, 168 pages. Description from the back cover: "Alison takes us step-by-step through a bold adventure of re-imagining the central axis of the Christian story, not as 'How does God deal with sin?' but as 'How do we take up God's invitation to share in the act of creation?'. All the while, to our growing astonishment and wonder, we discover ourselves as liked -- not only loved -- in the eyes of God." Says Richard Rohr OFM: "Intellectual dynamite and spiritual joy."
Alison, James. Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination. New York: Crossroad, 1996, 2000. Paperback, 203 pages. Alison focuses his Girardian acumen to the subject of eschatology. "...an exceptional book, with soaring power." -- René Girard
Alison, James. Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-in. New York: Continuum, 2006. Paperback: 160 pages. The collection of essays includes the topics: monotheism, "Worship in a Violent World," atonement, Romans 1, and more. "Undergoing God sets our comfortable worlds on a new axis." -- Martin Laird
Astell, Ann W. Joan of Arc and Sacrificial Authorship. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003. Cloth or paperback, 304 pages. Publisher's Description: "Blending the theoretical insights of Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, and René Girard, Ann W. Astell persuasively argues that many modern authors have seen their own artistic vocation in the visions and voices that inspired Joan."
Bailie, Gil. Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. New York: Crossroad, 1995. Paper, 293 pages. Brings a bouquet of texts together, including many biblical texts, to give an insightful interpretation of our modern situation from a Girardian perspective. Sam Keen says, "The single most important book of social analysis and prophetic theology to appear in our generation."
Bailie, Gil. The Cornerstone Forum lecture series on audio cassette tape (in 2003 being transferred to compact disk). Similar to his book but generally a bit more in depth. Highly recommended are the series: Creation, Fall & Sacrifice; The Gospel of John; The Gospel of Luke; and St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. See more info on Cornerstone website below.
Bandera, Cesáreo. The Humble Story of Don Quixote: Reflections on the Birth of the Modern Novel. Catholic University of America Press, 2006. Hardcover, 318 pages. An in-depth study of the novel that inaugurated Girard's mimetic theory in his first book Deceit, Desire, and the Novel.
Bandera, Cesáreo. The Sacred Game: The Role of the Sacred in the Genesis of Modern Literary Fiction. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1994. Paper, 318 pages. With penetrating historical insight, it superbly deals with fundamental issues in Western culture and literature.
Purposes: The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement.
PA: Trinity Press International, 2001. Paper, 272 pages. James G.
writes: "It is a radically Girardian analysis and constructive
regarding the Christian doctrine of atonement. ...uses Girard's
the generative mimetic scapegoat mechanism and Kierkegaard's
repetition and anxiety in a brilliant fashion." This remarkable
the relatively undeveloped thesis from Girard's Things
Hidden, chapter three of Part II on "The Sacrificial
Historical Christianity," and takes a huge leap forward in reading
portions of Christian history through the lens of an anthropology
cross -- yielding the fresh concept of the cross as Christ's leap
the abyss of human violence which is transformed by God's "abyssal
Christian: How Christ Changes Human Meaning
Creation New. Washington: O-Books, 2011. Paper, 290
Beck, Robert R. Nonviolent Story: Narrative Conflict Resolution in the Gospel of Mark. Orbis, 1996. Paper, 206 pages. Beck is not Girardian, but I find this to be the most helpful monograph on Mark for understanding it in Girardian terms, namely, as a Gospel story which demythologizes mythical plot narrative. In the Foreword, Ched Myers makes the connection to Girardian writers and themes when he says, "Like Wink and Bailie, Beck sees the gospel as a rejection of this classical plot formula. Jesus the protaganist explicitly rejects the option of righteous violence as the oxymoron it is, and chooses instead to suffer and die in order to redeem his antagonists."
Bellinger, Charles K. The Genealogy of Violence: Reflections on Creation, Freedom, and Evil. Oxford University Press, 2001. Cloth, 157 pages. Reads Kierkegaard and Girard together in offering an understanding of violence and social pathology.
Bellinger, Charles K. The Trinitarian Self: The Key to the Puzzle of Violence. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2008. Paperback, 167 pages. "Bellinger has thrown a clarifying spotlight on the question of violence as the crucial intersection between our human sciences and theology, a dialogue that proves as fruitful in theory as it is necessary in practice. His telling readings of Søren Kierkegaard, Eric Voegelin, and René Girard are woven together into an interpretive framework that multiplies the diagnostic relevance of each one for our conflicted human condition. Ambitious, clear, and creative, this book is a welcome contribution to the theological understanding of humanity and to the struggle to overcome violence." — S. Mark Heim
Bredin, Mark. Jesus, Revolutionary of Peace: A Nonviolent Christology in the Book of Revelation. Bletchley, England: Paternoster, 2003. Paper, 260 pages. Foreward by Richard Bauckham. Bredin cites René Girard as one of his main guides in seeing "Jesus the Nonviolent Teacher and Activist." From the back cover: "Drawing insight from diverse strands of literature, Bredin spreads a rich feast, to energize readers in the nonviolent revolution of Jesus Christ for justice and peace." -- Willard M. Swartley (COV&R member)
Cayley, David, with René Girard and others. "The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthropology of Violence and Religion." A CBC radio show, in the "Ideas" series, which provides an excellent introduction to Girard's work. A 4.5 hour production that aired over five evenings, March 5-9, 2001, primarily crafted out of interview material with Girard interspersed with narrative explanation by Cayley. An audio cassette version of the program, as well as a 53 page transcript, are available from the CBC through the website below, or by writing CBC Ideas Transcripts, PO Box 500, Station A, Toronto ON M5W1E6, or by emailing your inquiry to: email@example.com
Cowdell, Scott. Abiding Faith: Christianity Beyond Certainty, Anxiety, and Violence. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009. Paperback, 232 pages. "Cowdell explores how "having faith" has changed under the influence of modernity and post-modernity in the West.... He explores faith against the backdrop of secularization, the collapse of community, and the encroachment of an intentionally destabilizing consumer culture. He expounds the nature of desire in terms of imitation and rivalry, and the violent false-sacred roots of cultural formation evident in the modern West's many victims, all according to the uniquely comprehensive vision of René Girard. Finally, he dismisses today's growing mood of militant religious skepticism as philosophically outdated and out of its depth before the resilient confidence of a genuine living faith. What Cowdell calls 'abiding faith' emerges as a venerable yet strikingly contemporary possibility."
Culbertson, Diana. God in a World of Violence. Villa Maria, PA: The Center for Learning, 2003 (call 1-800-767-9090 for ordering). Paperback booklet, 52 pages. Written for adult education in the Christian congregation, this booklet provides an excellent introduction to Girardian anthropology for the life of faith.
Daly, Robert J., S. J. Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice. London: T&T Clark / New York: Continuum, 2009. Paperback, 260 pages. "Most ideas of sacrifice, even specifically Christian ideas, as we saw in the Reformation controversies, have something to do with deprivation or destruction. But this is not authentic Christian sacrifice. Authentic Christian sacrifice, and ultimately all true sacrifice ... begin to enter into that perfectly loving, totally self-giving relationship that is the life of the triune God.... After exploring the possibility of finding a phenomenology of sacrificial atonement in Girardian mimetic theory, the book will end with some suggestions on how to communicate its findings to people likely to be put off from the outset by the negative connotations associated with 'sacrifice.'"
Depoortere, Frederiek. Christ in Postmodern Philosophy: Gianni Vattimo, René Girard, and Slavoj Zizek. London: T&T Clark / New York: Continuum, 2008. Paperback, 159 pages. "In the wake of Heidegger's announcement of the end of onto-theology and inspired by both Levinas and Derrida, many contemporary continental philosophers of religion search for a post-metaphysical God, a God who is often characterized as tout autre, wholly other. Christ in Postmodern Philosophy investigates the Christological ideas of three contemporary thinkers, Gianni Vattimo, Rene Girard and Slavoj Zizek. In doing so, Depoortere focuses on the relation between transcendence and the event of the Incarnation on the one hand, and the uniqueness of Christianity on the other."
Dumouchel, Paul, ed. Violence and Truth: on the Work of René Girard. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988. Cloth, 289 pages. In this collection of essays from a symposium in 1983, authors from philosophy, ethnology, theology, psychology, history, economics, and sociology assess Girard's work for their disciplines.
Finamore, Stephen. God, Order, and Chaos: René Girard and the Apocalypse. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009. Paperback, 290 pages. "If the Apocalypse was a book for its times to enable what the Spirit was saying to late first century people, Finamore's reading of the Apocalypse, through the lens of Girard's theory, is an equivalent wake up call for a world addicted to violence and coercion in the pursuit of human flourishing and a plea to consider the 'better way' of the victim, the story of whose death, supposedly expedient for the wellbeing of the people, is recorded in the New Testament Gospels." -- Christopher Rowland, Oxford
Fleming, Chris. René Girard: Violence and Mimesis. (Series: Key Contemporary Thinkers.) Cambridge, Eng.: Polity Press, 2004. Paperback, 211 pages. Apt description from the cover: 'This is an impressively lucid and complete account of the major phases of Girard's thought, and it should be read with profit by anyone who wants a clear, comprehensive explanation of Girard's key ideas.'
Golsan, Richard J. René Girard and Myth: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2001 (originally, Garland Publishing, 1993). Paper, 237 pages. A book that Girard himself has recommended as a good introduction to his work.
Goodhart, Sandor; Jorgensen, Jorgen; Ryba, Thomas; Williams, James G.; eds. For René Girard: Essays in Friendship and in Truth. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2009. Paperback, 289 pages.
Goodhart, Sandor. Sacrificing Commentary: Reading the End of Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. Cloth, 362 pages. "Sandor Goodhart shows most convincingly that ... the supreme works of our culture, Sophocles, Shakespeare, and the Hebrew Bible, are still ahead of us in their anti-mythic mythical stance." -- René Girard
Grande, Per Bjørnar. Mimesis and Desire: An Analysis of the Religious Nature of Mimesis and Desire in the Work of René Girard. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2009. Paperback: 224 pages.
Grote, Jim and McGeeney, John. Clever as Serpents: Business Ethics and Office Politics. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1997. Paperback, 149 pages. A wonderfully practical look at how to work together with others, one that uses a very accessible outline of Girardian theory for the background to getting practical.
Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G. The Gospel and the Sacred: Poetics of Violence in Mark. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994 (out of print). Paperback, 175 pages. A commentary on the Gospel of Mark using Girard's ideas; with an excellent summary of Girard's basic theses.
Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G, ed. Politics & Apocalypse. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2007. Paperback, 266 pages. "Including an important new essay by Girard, this volume enters into a philosophical debate that challenges the bona fides of philosophy itself by examining three supremely important philosophers of the twentieth century [Eric Voegelin, Leo Strauss, and Carl Schmitt]. It asks how we might think about politics now that the attacks of 9/11 have shifted our intellectual foundations and what the outbreak of rabid religion might signify for international politics."
Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G. Sacred Violence: Paul's Hermeneutic of the Cross. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992 (out of print). Cloth, 230 pages. Provides an introduction to Girard's theories and then applies them to the writings of St. Paul. (This is the book that launched me into Girardian studies -- PJN.)
Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G, ed. Violent
Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan
on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation. Stanford, CA:
Press, 1987. Paper, 275 pages. Record of a scholarly conversation
in 1983; it contains an important statement by Girard of the
Life: Reconnecting Humanity with Jesus.
Foreword by Brian McLaren; afterword by Walter Wink. Lancaster,
Press, 2010. Paper, 317 pages. Walter Wink: "I scarcely know how
find words to do justice to this brilliant study. The Jesus Driven Life is
less than a magisterial synthesis of much that can be known about
and the early centuries of Christianity and their continuing
Michael, and Baker, Sharon L., editors. Peace
You: Christ's Benediction Amid Violent Empires.
Foreword by Willard Swartley. Telford, PA: Cascadia, 2010. Paper,
Hardin, Michael, and Jersak, Brad, editors. Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007. Paperback, 536 pages. "In the search for constructive rethinking of the cross, this book is a mother lode of resources." -- S. Mark Heim. Contributors include: James Alison, Anthony Bartlett, Marcus Borg, Miroslav Volf, Rowan Williams, N. T. Wright, and many more.
Haynes, Stephen. Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Cloth, 322 pages. Presents a thorough history of interpretation of Noah's curse on Ham (Gen. 9:25), especially in its justification of American slavery; saves mimetic theory's perspective of the victim to the book's end as the way of redeeming the past sacrificial readings of this story. Walter Brueggemann says, "Noah's Curse is an exercise in historical disclosure not to be missed by those who care about the crisis of reading in the church and in a Bible-reading culture."
Heim, S. Mark. Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006. Paperback: 346 pages. Publisher's Description: "The cross has long been not only a scandal but also a profound paradox: filled with saving significance and power, it is at the same time a sobering tragedy. In Saved from Sacrifice theologian Mark Heim takes on this paradox, asserting that the cross must be understood against the whole history of human scapegoating violence. In order to highlight the dimensions of his argument, Heim carefully and critically draws on the groundbreaking work of French theorist and biblical scholar René Girard. Yet Heim goes beyond Girard to develop a comprehensive theology of the atonement and the cross through his fresh readings of well-known biblical passages and his exploration of the place of the victim."
Kirk-Duggan, Cheryl A. Refiner's Fire: A Religious Engagement with Violence. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001. Paper, 206 pages. COV&R participant Kirk-Duggan uses a womanist perspective and "probes the meaning of religion's involvement in violence -- for good and ill -- in the Bible, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and the youth scene today."
Kirwan, Michael. Discovering Girard. Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2005. Paper, 137 pages. René Girard says, "Really wonderful; an elegantly written initiation into the mimetic theory. I am lucky to have interpreters who understand what I want to say and who can write so well."
Kirwan, Michael. Girard and Theology. London: T&T Clark / New York: Continuum, 2009. Paperback, 165 pages. "The work of the French American theorist René Girard (b.1923) has been highly influential in a wide variety of intellectual disciplines.... Mimetic theory is an account of how religion, culture and violence are interrelated. Its three principal parts consist of: an assertion of the ‘mimetic’ (i.e. imitated or derivative nature of desire); the function of ‘scapegoating’ as a means of achieving and maintaining social cohesion; the gospel revelation as the means by which these truths of the human condition are made known to us.... Kirwan looks at these ideas and their relevance to theology as well as their reception in the development of 'dramatic theology' and new theological concepts of atonement and sacrifice."
Lefebure, Leo D. Revelation, the Religions, and Violence. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000. Paper, 244 pages. Jacket: "Lefebure extends the path-breaking insights of René Girard into a multi-religious context."
Marr, Andrew. Tools for Peace: The Spiritual Craft of St. Benedict and René Girard. iUniverse, Inc., 2007. Paper, 256 pages. A fine resource on mimetic theory that relates very much to congrgational life in its insights into how to live in Christian community.
McCracken, David. The Scandal of the Gospels: Jesus, Story, and Offense. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Cloth, 204 pages. Excellent New Testament exegesis on a key Girardian term: "stumbling block" (Greek: skandalon). Also compares Girard's work to that of Kierkegaard.
McKenna, Andrew J, ed. René Girard and Biblical Studies. Semeia: an experimental journal for biblical criticism, No. 33. Decatur, GA: Scholars Press (for the Society of Biblical Literature), 1985. Paper: 171 pages. An excellent collection of essays on Girard's work as it pertains to biblical criticism.
McKenna, Andrew J. Violence and Difference: Girard, Derrida, and Deconstruction. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992. Paperback, 238 pages. Brilliantly uses Girardian anthropology to go one step beyond Derrida's deconstructionist philosophical project by showing how and why the violence--which Derrida poses as underlying the entire Western philosophical tradition--is generated, thus completing Derrida's deconstruction of the latter. The Christian revelation is suggested as a more enlightening alternative to Derrida's deconstruction (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:18ff.)--one which pre-dated the latter by almost two thousand years!
Moore, Sebastian. The Contagion of Jesus: Doing Theology as if It Mattered. Edited by Stephen MacCarthy. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007. Paper, 208 pages. "Sebastian Moore describes his book as 'a passionate rather than rigorous theology,' representing his enthusiasm for a theology based on a loving God, a saving Christ, and a church of friendship and discipleship."
Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Genesis of Desire. E. Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2010. [Originally published in French, 2007; translated by Eugene Webb.] Paper, 174 pages.
Oughourlian, Jean-Michel. The Puppet of Desire: The Psychology of Hysteria, Possession, and Hypnosis. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991. [Originally pub. in French, 1982; trans., with an introduction, by Eugene Webb.] Cloth, 263 pages. A collaborator with Girard on Things Hidden and a practicing psychiatrist, Oughourlian elaborates on the "Interdividual Psychology" of the Girardian anthropology. It is also a fascinating effort at writing a history of psychology that goes back much further than Freud--putting him in his place, so to speak.
Pahl, Jon. Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence. New York: NYU Press, 2010. Hardcover, 288 pages.
Pahl, Jon. Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces: Putting God in Place. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009 (originally, Brazos Press, 2003). Paperback, 288 pages.
Palaver, Wolgang, and Steinmair-Posel, Petra, editors. Passions in Economy, Politics, and the Media: In Discussion with Christian Theology. Somerset, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2006. Paperback: 528 pages. Essays and papers related to the 2003 COV&R Conference in Innsbruck. (For more on COV&R see below.)
Redekop, Vern Neufeld. From Violence to Blessing: How an understanding of deep-rooted conflict can open paths to reconciliation. Foreward by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Toronto: Novalis, 2002. Paper, 408 pages. Sharing his extensive experience as one of Canada's foremost leaders in conflict resolution, Redekop gets beyond the analysis of mimetic violence to suggest paths toward peace and reconciliation.
Reineke, Martha J. Sacrificed Lives: Kristeva on Women and Violence. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997. Paperback, 232 pages. From the back cover: "...Reineke advances a theory of sacrifice, inspired by Julia Kristeva and René Girard, that attempts to account for violence in Western culture, the human proclivity for body mutilation and abuse, and women's special vulnerability to violence."
Robinette, Brian D. Grammars of Resurrection: A Christian Theology of Presence and Absence. New York: Crossroad, 2009. Paperback, 444 pages. "A genuinely rich and dense account of Christ's Resurrection and the way it opens out human understanding towards a re-imagination of Creation and of God's beauty." -- James Alison This book is amazing in the breadth and depth of plumbing the best of contemporary theology and philosophy, and it gives a central place to Mimetic Theory as a key to pulling it all together.
Ross, Suzanne. The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things. Chicago, 2003. Paperback, 215 pages. "It is a rare privilege as an artist to have one's work explored in such a profound way. The Wicked Truth is a fascinating and valuable study of the ways we all wrestle with the wickedness within and without us and how we can combat it." -- Stephen Schwartz, Composer/Lyricist, Wicked. Available at the website: http://www.thewickedtruth.com/.
Ross, Suzanne. The Wicked Truth about Love: The Tangles of Desire. Chicago, 2009. Paperback, 125 pages. Available at the website: http://www.thewickedtruth.com/.
Salomon, Daniel. Creation Unveiled. Longwood, FL: Xulon Press, 1993. Paperback, 297 pages. From the back cover: "Following in the tradition of Christian environmentalism, Creation Unveiled opens up the unique perspectives of Christian anthropologist René Girard."
Schwager, Raymund, S.J. Banished from Eden: Original Sin and Evolutionary Theory in the Drama of Salvation. Gracewing, 2006. Paperback, 200 pages.
Schwager, Raymund, S.J. Jesus in the Drama of Salvation: Sketch of a Biblical Doctrine of Redemption. New York: Crossroad, 1999. [Originally in German, 1990; trans. by James G. Williams.] Paper, 245 pages. The scholarly companion volume to his Jesus of Nazareth, which substantiates the latter's portrayal of Jesus through a systematic analysis of biblical research.
Schwager, Raymund, S.J. Jesus of Nazareth: How He Understood His Life. New York: Crossroad, 1998. Paper, 187 pages. [Originally published in German, 1991; trans. by James G. Williams.] Schwager takes the impulse from von Balthasar's idea of Theo-Drama, and applies Girard's evangelical anthropology, to provide a unique life of Jesus that asks a new question: how did Jesus himself come to understand his life, and experience his faith?
Schwager, Raymund, S.J. Must There Be Scapegoats? Violence and Redemption in the Bible. Forward by Robert J. Daly, S.J. New York: Crossroad, 2000, 1987. Paper, 264 pages. [Originally in German, 1978; trans. by Maria L. Assad.] The first attempt by a biblical scholar and theologian to read Girard's theories through all of Scripture.
Smith, Theophus H., and Wallace, Mark I. Curing Violence: Essays on René Girard. Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1994. Paper, 352 pages. A fine collection of essays from early participants in COV&R.
Swartley, Willard M. Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in the New Testament Theology and Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006. Paperback, 542 pages. Publisher's Description: "In this comprehensive yet accessible book Swartley explicates virtually all of the New Testament, relating peace — and the associated emphases of love for enemies and reconciliation — to core theological themes such as salvation, christology, and the reign of God. No other work in English makes such a contribution." A participant in COV&R Swartley makes significant use of Mimetic Theory, especially in Chapters 13-14.
Swartley, Willard M., editor. Violence Renounced: René Girard, Biblical Studies, and Peacemaking. Response by René Girard and Foreward by Diana M. Culbertson. Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2000. Paperback, 343 pages. The marvelous fruits of a 1994 conference hosted by the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, IN. Contributors include Charles Mabee, James G. Williams, Sandor Goodhart, and Rebecca Adams.
Trestad, Marit, editor. Cross Examinations: Readings on the Meaning of the Cross Today. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006. Paperback, 320 pages. Michael Hardin recommends this book as "a powerful book of theological reasoning and an ally in deconstructing the false power of the logic of sacrificial theology" (p. 15) -- and as a womanist balance to the majority male perspective of the Stricken by God? volume. In addition to S. Mark Heim's contribution from a Girardian perspective, contributors to this collection include: Rita Nakashima Brock, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Susan L. Nelson, Alicia Vargas, Delores S. Williams, Douglas John Hall, and Jurgen Moltmann.
Vattimo, Gianni. Belief. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999. Paperback, 98 pages. [Originally published in Italian; trans. by Luca D'Isanto and David Webb.] Professor of Philosophy at the University of Turin, Vattimo narrates in this little book how reading Girard's Things Hidden was the turning point in his career as a philosopher, leading to his concept of "weak ontology" based on the Christian notion of kenosis, as found, for example, in Philippians 2.
Wallace, Mark I. Fragments of the Spirit: Nature, Violence, and the Renewal of Creation. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002. Paperback, 237 pages. "Fragments of the Spirit is a confrontation between Christian theology and radical nihilism." -- René Girard
Williams, James G. The Bible, Violence, and the Sacred: Liberation from the Myth of Sanctioned Violence. Foreword by René Girard. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2007 [originally published by HarperCollins, 1991]. Paperback, 288 pages. The second major work by a biblical scholar to read Girard's theories through a large portion of Scripture.
Wright, N. T. Christian Origins and the Question of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Vol. 1: The New Testament and the People of God (1992, 535 pages). Vol. 2: Jesus and the Victory of God (1996, 741 pages). Vol. 3: The Resurrection of the Son of God (2003, 817 pages). These books help set up a Girardian reading by making the following bold moves: (1) Bypass Bultmann and much of modern scholarship with its suspicion of the evangelists around a notion of mythologizing which misses the anthropological point (see, e.g., Girard's essay "Are the Gospels Mythical?"). (2) Revive Schweitzer's categorization of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet but (3) correct his description of what that would have meant in first century Judaism: namely, Jesus was essentially correct as an apocalyptic prophet in his prophecy that the way of armed rebellion would bring an end to the Temple, and thus an end to Judaism as it was practiced and known in first century Palestine. (4) Understand with Jesus that the real enemy is not Rome, the Judean leadership, or any human leaders but the satanic powers behind them. (5) When this is understood, then it is easy to see that the way to peace is not through killing Romans or any human beings, who are but instruments of "the satan" (Wright uses the article to indicate a title akin to "the accuser"). Girard's anthropology can then fill in the nature of the satanic powers, on which Wright (disappointingly) doesn't really elaborate much.
Yoder, John Howard. The
Jesus (2nd Rev. ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994
. Paperback, 270 pages. Using the text of the New Testament,
engaging study critically examines the traditional portrait of
an apolitical figure and clarifies the true impact of Jesus' life,
and teachings on his disciples' social behavior. This second
updated and expanded via an epilogue for each chapter. I see this
highly important book for mimetic theory since the latter calls
all conventional ethics and politics as founded in the victimage
If Christians are to begin re-founding an ethics and politics for
Culture ("Kingdom"), then don't we need to begin with the politics
as does Yoder? And won't it be focused in nonviolent resistance to
ethics and politics of conventional human culture, precisely the
which Yoder sketches for us from the New Testament?
Journals / Bulletins / Essays
Alison, James. "Looking Elsewhere." The Other Side, Vol. 38, No. 3 (May-June 2002), pages 16-19, 38. Originally, "Contemplation in a world of violence: Girard, Merton, Tolle" (link to web version), a talk prepared for a day retreat with Sebastian Moore, organized by the Thomas Merton Society, held at Downside Abbey, Bath, November 3, 2001. This is my favorite piece on the terrible day of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath, focusing more on our response than on what the terrorists did.
Bailie, Gil. "René Girard's Contribution to the Church of the 21st Century." Communio, Vol. XXVI, No. 1 (Spring 1999), pp. 134-153. An excellent introduction to Girard's work. The issue also contains a response to Bailie by Consulting Editor Roch Kereszty and Bailie's response to him, pp. 212-224. An online version of this essay has been posted in two parts: Part 1, "Violence and the Sacred," and Part 2, "The Mystery of Sin."
The Bulletin of the Colloquium on Violence & Religion. Published bi-annually (March and October): No. 1, October, 1991-. An international group has been formed to further Girard's ideas, called the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (or "COV&R"); this is its bulletin. To join COV&R and/or to receive its bulletin or journal, write to COV&R, 10616 Mellow Meadows, #27A, Austin, Texas 78750. Available online (see below).
Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture. Published annually: Volume I, Spring 1994 - Vol. 15/16, 2008-09. Published essays, primarily from the annual COV&R conferences.
Dialog: A Journal of Theology. Fall 1993 Issue (Vol. 32, No. 4): "Paul and Luther: A Debate over Sacred Violence," primarily an issue in conversation around Hamerton-Kelly's book Sacred Violence; includes essays by Hamerton-Kelly and Girard.
Girard, René. "Are the Gospels Mythical?" First Things, April 1996. An essay by Girard that provides a good introduction to his work. Also available online.
Girard, René. "On War and Apocalypse." First Things, Aug/Sept 2009. An essay by Girard based on Battling to the End (Achever Clausewitz). Also available online.
Heim, S. Mark. "Visible Victim: Christ's death to end sacrifice." The Christian Century, March 14, 2001, Vol. 118, No. 9, pp.19-23. This second part of a two-part series offers Girard's anthropology as a helpful answer to modern questions about the cross of Christ and atonement theory, questions raised in the first part of the series "Christ Crucified: Why does Jesus' death matter?" (The Christian Century, March 7, 2001, Vol. 118, No. 8, pp.12-17). Link to an online version: Part 1, on atonement theories in general; Part 2, on Girard's anthropology as a key to a more plausible atonement theory.
McDonald, Brian. "Violence & the Lamb Slain: An Interview with René Girard." Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, December, 2003, Vol. 16, Issue 10. One of the best brief introductions to Girard that I've come across. Also available online.
McKenna, Andrew. "Uncanny Christianity: René Girard's Mimetic Theory." In Divine Aporia: Postmodern Conversations about the Other (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2000), edited by John C. Hawley, pages 84-96.
Michael, Thomas A. "How to Scapegoat the Leader: A Refresher Course (for those who do not need it)," -- a good online introduction to the scapegoat element of mimetic theory and a contemporary example from a university faculty.
Nessan, Craig L. "Violence and Atonement," Dialog: A Journal of Theology, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Winter 1996), pages 26-34.
Nuechterlein, Paul J. "Holy Communion: Altar Sacrament for Making a Sacrificial Sin Offering, or Table Sacrament for Nourishing a Life of Service?" Contagion, Vol. 3 (Spring 1996), pages 201-221.
Nuechterlein, Paul J. "The Work of René Girard as a New Key to Biblical Hermeneutics." Currents in Theology and Mission, June 1999, pages 196-209.
Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature, Vol. LII, No.
1999): "Critical Perspectives on René Girard." Published by
University; edited by Ed Block, Jr. An issue devoted to Girard's
essays by: René Girard, George Hardin Brown, Curtis
Goldman, Thad Bower, Martin Kevorkian.
Anthropoetics. Eric Gans, a student of Girard's who has significantly developed mimetic theory in his own directions (which he calls "Generative Anthropology"), has this UCLA-hosted site, including both an online journal, Anthropoetics, and online commentaries, Chronicles of Love and Resentment.
COV&R Website. Colloquium on Violence & Religion. COV&R Object: "The COLLOQUIUM ON VIOLENCE AND RELIGION (COV&R) is an international association of scholars founded in 1990. It is dedicated to the exploration, criticism, and development of René Girard's mimetic model of the relationship between violence and religion in the genesis and maintenance of culture." (For full information on COV&R link to the COV&R website on the logo below.)
COV&R Conferences. COV&R has held an annual international conference since 1991. The 2009 conference is set for London, July 8-12. Papers for recent conferences may be accessed at their websites: 2008 at Riverside, CA; 2007 at Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 2006 at Ottawa, Canada; 2004 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. There is a complete listing of the meetings at the official COV&R website.
COV&R Listserve. Not generally a high-traffic list for
used primarily to send information out to the COV&R
by e-mailing the one word message "subscribe" to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thereafter, send posts to: email@example.com
Cornerstone Forum Website: The homepage of Gil Bailie's mission forum (formerly the Florilegia Institute). Gil has been a long-time, articulate teacher of mimetic theory, and he has a great passion for bringing it into the life of the church.
Danielin Linkit. Daniel Nylund's extraordinarily comprehensive links page for Internet pages concerning René Girard's work. If it's on the Internet and about Girard, you will likely find it here.
"GIRARD" meeting on Ecunet. A medium-traffic list for discussion. Ecunet has updated its procedures in the fall of 2001. Ecunet is a church-based Internet meeting place, with hundreds of meetings which are accessed via an "inbox" at the Ecunet website. "GIRARD" is one of its few meetings that is accessible by e-mail without a full membership to Ecunet (generally, $28.95/year); one can sign-up for a free "Lite" membership that allows access to the e-mail meeting. (In fact, even if you are a full member of Ecunet and can get "GIRARD" through your inbox, if you want it sent via e-mail, too, then you have to also register as a "Lite" member under a second name -- which is what I do.) If you are interested in joining "GIRARD" as an e-mail participant, link directly to the Ecunet Registration Page, register for the free "Lite" Ecunet membership, and then join "GIRARD." If you have questions e-mail Paul Nuechterlein (I'm the moderator).
Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary. (This site!) Paul Nuechterlein has been sending out weekly reflections on the lectionary texts from a Girardian perspective since October 1996. These reflections are now available at the website.
IDEAS-Girard. "The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthropology of Violence and Religion." Website for a CBC radio show produced by David Cayley on the work of Girard. It aired March 5-9, 2001, and audio cassettes and a transcript of the show are available through this webpage.
James Alison Theology Website, is a wonderful resource into Alison's work, with many links to online papers and book excerpts (some back to this site).
Johnston, Britton W. His personal web page, featuring essays and pastoral conferences applying mimetic theory.
"Liturgy: Helping your worship to be vital, transforming, and faithful." Bosco Peters hosts a website friendly to Mimetic Theory which is "an independent website serving individuals and communities seeking to have worship and spirituality that is vital, transforming, and faithful."
"Preaching Peace." Hosted by COV&R members Jeff Krantz and Michael Hardin, this is another fine site for looking at the Sunday lectionary through the lens of mimetic theory. All the Gospel texts in the three-year lectionary have essays; the essays for the Epistles are currently being written.
The Raven Foundation. Established in January 2007 by co-founders Keith and Suzanne Ross, the Raven Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to advance the awareness of Rene Girard’s insights into mimetic theory. Closely related is a website for Suzanne Ross' book The Wicked Truth.
"The Text This Week." Hosted by Jenee Woodard, this is the most comprehensive lectionary study site on the Internet.
the Sacred Victim Vindicated." Abbot Andrew Marr's
has numerous helpful brief essays introducing Girard's work.
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