The Scapegoat / Edition 1

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Overview

Widely regarded as one of the most profound critics of our time, René Girard has pursued a powerful line of inquiry across the fields of the humanities and the social sciences. His theories, which the French press has termed "l'hypothèse girardienne," have sparked interdisciplinary, even international, controversy. In The Scapegoat, Girard applies his approach to "texts of persecution," documents that recount phenomena of collective violence from the standpoint of the persecutor—documents such as the medieval poet Guillaume de Machaut's Judgement of the King of Navarre, which blames the Jews for the Black Death and describes their mass murder.

Girard compares persecution texts with myths, most notably with the myth of Oedipus, and finds strikingly similar themes and structures. Could myths regularly conceal texts of persecution? Girard's answers lies in a study of the Christian Passion, which represents the same central event, the same collective violence, found in all mythology, but which is read from the point of view of the innocent victim. The Passion text provides the model interpretation that has enabled Western culture to demystify its own violence—a demystification Girard now extends to mythology.

Underlying Girard's daring textual hypothesis is a powerful theory of history and culture. Christ's rejection of all guilt breaks the mythic cycle of violence and the sacred. The scapegoat becomes the Lamb of God; "the foolish genesis of blood-stained idols and the false gods of superstition, politics, and ideologies" are revealed.

Johns Hopkins University Press

A study of "texts of persecution", documents that recount phenomena of collective violence from the standpoint of the persecutor.

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Editorial Reviews

Religion and Literature
[Girard's] methods of extrapolating to find cultural history behind myths, and of reading hidden verification through silence, are worthy enrichments of the critic's arsenal.

— John Yoder

Religion and Literature - John Yoder

[Girard's] methods of extrapolating to find cultural history behind myths, and of reading hidden verification through silence, are worthy enrichments of the critic's arsenal.

Library Journal
Girard, professor of French language, literature, and civilization at Stanford, builds on his notable previous anthropological and literary examinations of myth and ritual in human society. Here he applies his appraisals of Freud and Levi-Strauss to demonstrate how religion functions to keep violence outside society by deflecting it onto a scapegoat whose sacrifice restores the social order. Using a rich variety of resources from Greek to biblical, primitive to modern, he cites the Gospel Passion as a myth with the power to break the evil of collective violence and the corporate murder it conceals. Girard's use of structuralism to analyze biblical texts will stir much discussion, and the book as a whole is bound to be considered provocative by specialists. Murray L. Wagner, Bethany Theological Seminary, Oakbrook, Ill.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801839177
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1989
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 347,083
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

René Girard is Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature and Civilization at Stanford University. Two of his books, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, which was also translated by Yvonne Freccero, and Violence and the Sacred, are available from Johns Hopkins University Press.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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