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464676

464676

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The Missing Mother: The Oedipal Rivalries of René GirardAuthor(s): Toril MoiReviewed work(s):Source:
Diacritics,
Vol. 12, No. 2, Cherchez la Femme Feminist Critique/Feminine Text(Summer, 1982), pp. 21-31Published by:
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This content downloaded on Tue, 26 Feb 2013 05:47:07 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions
 
THE
MISSING
MOTHER:
THE
OEDIPAL
RIVALRIES
OF
RENE
GIRARD
TORILMOI
inthe femaleprisonThere reseventy-fiveomenAndwhatwouldn't giveifIwere there?ButthatoldtriangleGoesjingle-jangleAllalongthe banksof theRoyalCanal.(DominicBehan)SincethepublicationofDeceit,Desire,and theNovel: Self and Otherin
LiterarytructureTr.byYvonneFrecceroBaltimore:ohnsHopkins,1965),Frenchoriginal:Mensongeromantiquet verit6romanesqueParis:Grasset,1961)),ReneGirardasbeentirelessly xpandingndexpoundingisheoryoftriangularr mimeticdesire.In this firstbookhe claimshatriangularesiresthekeyto a trueunderstandingfthenovelsof authorsikeCervantes,tend-hal,Dostoevskynd Proust.nhisnextmajorheoreticalwork,Violence ndtheSacredTr.byPatrickGregoryBaltimore:ohnsHopkins,1977),Frenchoriginal:Laviolenceetle
sacr6
(Paris:Grasset,1972))hetransportsistriangleinto the fieldsofanthropologyandreligion.Girardnowmaintainshattriangularesirecanexplainallsacrificialitualsndreligiouseliefsoncerningvictimsandscapegoats.Atthe endofViolenceandtheSacredhepromisesur-therdevelopmentsfhistheory,andhe doesnot fail us:in1978hepublishesDeschosescacheesdepuisafondationumonde:RecherchesvecJean-MichelOughourliantGuyLefortParis:Grasset,978).HereGirardeadshe Oldandthe NewTestamentsn thelightof histheoriesandalso seekstoprovehat hisinsightnto he naturefdesiresconsiderablyuperioro Freud's.yhispoint,Girardslayinglaim to totaland universalalidityorhis theories.Weshallnowseethatwecan relatebackoappropriativeimesisnotonlythe interdictionsut therites andreligiousorganisationn itsentirety.Whatwillemergefromthissingleanduniqueprinciplesacompletetheoryof humanculture.[Deschoses cach6esdepuisledebutdumonde,hereafter:Des chosescach6es,pp.26-27]I willargueherethat hese claimscannotn fact be validated.Mymainconten-tionis thatGirard'sheoryofmimeticdesirecannotaccountor emininedesire.Anyclaimsto universalalidityor histheorymustthereforebeabandoned.ThroughreadingfGirard'sheoreticalworksIwilltryo showthatfemininedesire sin factabsent romhisworks,andthat he reasonorthisabsence s tobe foundinGirard's xclusionofthe motherfromtheOedipal triangle,anexclusionwhichcanonlybemaintainedt ahighheoreticalost:Girard asopositheterosexualitysan inbornnstinctnhumanbeingsnordero savehisreadingftheOedipuscomplex.
DIACRITICSol.12Pp.21-310300-7162/82/0122-002101.00
?
1982byTheJohnsHopkinsUniversityPress
This content downloaded on Tue, 26 Feb 2013 05:47:07 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions
 
Mimetic desireInastyleitselfprodigalwith hieratic and authoritariangestures("Thetruth isthat...","Allwe havetodotoaccountforeverything....")Girardstates that alldesireisappropria-tiveand mediated.Thesubjectcanonlydesireanobjectinsofar as anothersubjectalreadydesires thesameobject.Alldesireisan imitationof therival'sdesire and therefore mimetic.Girard himselfputsit inthisway:Inallthevarietiesofdesire examinedbyus,we haveencounterednotonlyasubjectandanobjectbut a thirdpersonaswell: therival.It isthe rivalwhoshouldbeaccordedthedominant role.[...]Thesubjectdesires theobjectbecausetherivaldesires it.[...]Therival, then,serves as a modelforthesubject,notonlyinregardtosuchsecondarymatters asstyleandopinionsbutalso,and moreessentially,inregardtodesires.[..]We mustunderstand that desire itself isessentiallymimetic,directed toward anobjectdesiredbythemodel.[...]Thus,mimesiscoupledwithdesire leadsautomaticallytoconflict.[ViolenceandtheSacred,hereafter:Violence,pp.145-146]Thecompetitionbetweensubjectand rival soon overshadowsthesubject'smediateddesire fortheobject.Theimportanceofthe mediator increases asheapproachesthe sub-ject,andtheimportanceofobjectdecreasescorrespondingly.Beforelongthesubjectiscaughtupinan intense and ambivalentrelationshipwith therival/model.Theobjectrecedesmoreandmore intothebackground,and ispresentlydeclaredsuperfluous:IMO[Jean-MarieOughourlian]:What strikesme inwhatyou sayisthatit is nolongeraquestionoftheobject.Everythingeads back tothe relations betweenthemimeticrivals,each themodeland thediscipleof theother.[..]RG[Rene Girard]:Desire itselfgraduallydisengagesitself fromtheobjectinordertoattach itselfto themodel,and the intensificationof thesymptomsisat onewiththismovement.[Deschosescachdes,pp.334-335]This conflictualrelationshipbetweensubjectand rivalwould leadtoendless violence ifsocietydid notmanagetocurbtheexpressionofmimetic conflict.This,ineffect,is the roleofreligion.Girard maintainsthat all sacrificialrites,all choice ofscapegoats,aredesignedtopreventsocial violence.Violenceisthus an inherentpartof thesacred;theveryfunction ofthesacredis toprocuresocially acceptableoutlets for mimetic violence.Mimeticrivalrybetweensubjectand model increases as thedifference betweenthemdiminishes;themodelthen becomes thesubject'sdouble,and themimetic violencegrowsinintensity.Inorderto haltthiscircle of violenceavictim whois differentfromtherivallingsubjects/mediators,ascapegoat,mustbe chosen.Preciselybecausethescapegoatisdif-ferent itcan breaktheunendingcircleof mimeticrivalrybetweennear-identical doubles.This choice of ascapegoatisexpressedintwostages.ForGirard,Allsacrificialrites are based on two substitutions. The first sprovided bygenerativeviolence,which substitutesasinglevictimfor all themembersof thecommunity.Thesecond,theonly strictlyritualisticubstitution,isthatofavictim[unevictimesacrifiable]forthesurrogatevictim.Asweknow,it isessential thatthe victim(lescategoriessacrifiables)be drawnfromoutside thecommunity.Thesurrogatevic-tim,bycontrast,isa memberof thecommunity.[Violence,p.269,myitalicsadded]Thesacrificialmechanism consistsinfindinganoutlet for themimetic violenceoutsidethecommunity, therebyprovidingthe basis forastableandpeacefulsociety.SexismandLiteraryCriticismGirardadmits to almosthavingsuccumbedto the"neo-Marxian nd LukAcsianempta-tionembodiedinthe late and lamented LucienGoldmann,for whom mimetic desire was
22
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