Models of desire : René Girard and the psychology of mimesis


Authors
Paisley Livingston
Lingnan University
Abstract
To some, Rene Girard is best known for his views on sacred myth and ritual. To others, he is the eminent structuralist critic who offers challenging readings of major literary works. Still others know him for his analyses of the Bible. Central to all aspects of Girard's work is his theory of mimesis, a basic hypothesis about the structures of human motivation, Yet nowhere in his writings does Girard offer a systematic presentation of the mimetic theory. In fact, key terminology shifts from work to work, resulting in considerable ambiguity in both basic concepts and explanatory claims,In Models of Desire Paisley Livingston provides the first rigorous critical reconstruction of Girard's theory of mimesis. Drawing a careful distinction between the theory itself and Girard's often ambitious claims about it, Livingston provides a systematic presentation of Girard's ideas about the role of imitation in human motivation. He surveys responses to Girard's work and compares his theory of mimetic desire with recent work in cognitive psychology and philosophy. The result is a salient theoretical alternative to the false choice--between psychoanalysis and anti-psychological doctrines--that currently dominates literary theory.
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