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Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1965. 1-52.
The discipline pursues objects which are determined for him, or at least seem to be determined for him, but the model of all chivalry. We shall call this model the mediator of desire. On Literary Criticism
The triangle is no Gestalt. The real structures are inter-subjective. They cannot be localized anywhere the triangle has no reality whatever; it is a systematic metaphor, systematically pursued. Because changes in size and shape do not destroy the identity of this figure, as we will see later, the diversity as well as the unity of the works can be simultaneously illustrated. The purpose and limitations of this structural geometry may become clearer through a reference to ‘structural models.’ The triangle is a model of a sort, or rather a whole family of models. But these models are not ‘mechanical’ like those of Claude Levi-Strauss. They will allude to the mystery, transparent yet opaque, of human relations. All types of structural thinking assume that human reality is intelligible; it is a logos, and as such, it is an incipient logic, or it degrades itself into a logic. It can thus be systematized, at least up top a point, however unsystematic, irrational, and chaotic it may appear even to those, or rather especially to those who operate the system. A basic contention of this essay is that the great writers comprehend intuitively and concretely, through the medium of their art, if not formally, the system in which they were first imprisoned together with their contemporaries. Literary interpretation must be systematic because it is the continuation of literature. It should formalize implicit or already halfexplicit systems. To maintain that criticism will never be real knowledge. The value of a critical thought dpends not on how it cleverly manages to disguise its own systematic nature or on how many fundamental issues it manages to shirk or to dissolve but on how much literary substance it really embraces, comprehends, and makes articulate. The goal may be too ambitious but it is not outside the scope of literary criticism. It is the very essence of literary criticism. Failure to reach it should be condemned but not the attempt. Everything else has already been done. (Girard, p. 3)
Definition of Desire Desire according to the Other and the ‘seminal’ function of literature are also found in the novels of Flaubert. Emma Bovary desires through the romantic heroines who fill her imagination. The second-rate books which she devoured in her youth have destroyed her spontaneity. We must turn to Jules de Gaultier for the definition of this ‘bovarysm’ which he reveals in every one of Flaubert’s characters: ‘The same ignorance, the same inconsistency, the same absence of individual reaction seem to make them fated to obey the suggestion of an
’ Flaubert’s heroines find a ‘model’ for themselves and ‘imitate from the person they have decided to be. or of Madame Bovary…Valenod.external milieu. intonation.’ The external aspects of imitation are the most striking. and that same vanity demands his defeat. can steal the tutor from the M. Gaultier goes on to observe that in order to reach their goal. especially. grouped into two fundamental categories---but within these categories there can be an infinite number of secondary distinctions. it is even this very desire. When he enters the service of the Renal family. all that can be imitated. p. appearance. entitled Bovarysm. We 2 . Julien borrows from Rousseau’s Confessions the desire to eat at his mas. The mediator here is a rival. Here history is nothing but a kind of literature. In most of Standhal’s desire it: it is mediator himself desires the object or could desire it. This means that one is always confronted with two competing desires. And so in Stendhal we again find triangular desire. and dress.[end of p. Like the relentless sentry of the Kafka [end of p. for lack of an auto-suggestion from within. 6) Vaniteux A vaniteux will desire any object so long as he is convinced that it is already desired by another person whom he admires. the Marechale de Fervacques can take Julien from Mathilde de la Mole. which is ‘to see themselves as they are not. The mediator can no longer act his role of model without also acting or appearing to act the role of the obstacle. gesture. the desires of models they have freely chosen. (Girard. therefore. it suggests to all Stendhal’s characters feelings and. We shall speak of External mediation when the distance is sufficient to eliminate any contact between the two spheres of possibilities of which the mediator and the subject occupy the respective centeres. or believe they are imitating.’ The vaniteux is brother to Don Quixote and Emma Bovary. on the other hand.’ In his famous essay. brought into existence as a rival by vanity. 7]… Internal Mediation and External Mediation Romantic works are. The rivalry between mediator and the person who desires constitutes an essential difference between this desire and that of Don Quixote. Stendhal uses the word ‘vanity’ (vanite) to indicate all these forms of ‘copying’ and ‘imitating. 5] ter’s table rather than at that of the servants. desires that they do not experience spontaneously. which makes this object infinitely desirable in the eyes of the subject. de Renal. but we must above all remember that the characters of Cervantes and Flaubert are imitating. everything exterior. real or presumed. The mediation begets a second desire exactly the same as the mediator’s.
Fascinated by his model. he distance between mediator and the subject is primarily spiritual.shall speak of internal mediation when this same distance is sufficiently reduced to allow these two spheres to penetrate each other more or less profoundly. The parallel between Don Quixote and Madame Bovary has become classic. In an effort to hide this desperate admiration from others. or perhaps possesses. He asserts that his own desire is prior to that of his rival. Mme Bovary and Leon also admit the truth about their desires in their lyric confessions. This is the passion we call hatred. far from boasting of his efforts to imitate. for the mediator’s apparent hostility does not diminish his prestige but instead augments it. The impulse toward the object is ultimately an impulse toward the mediator. he no longer wants to see in his mediator anything but an obstacle. concealing his original function of a model scrupulously imitated. Imitation in Stendal’s work at first seems less absurd since there is less of that divergence between the worlds of disciple and model which makes a Don Quixote or an Emma Bovary so grotesque. Only someone who prevents us from satisfying a desire which he himself has inspired in us is truly an object of [end of p. The subject is convinced that the model considers himself too superior to accept him as a dciple. the object.’ but also because the hero of internal mediation. the disciple inevitablu sees. (Girard. Far from declaring himself a faithful vassal. The person who hates himself for the secret admiration concealed by his hatred. 9) The hero of external mediation proclaims aloud the true nature of his desire. in internal mediation this impulse is checked by the mediator himself since he desires. proof of the ill will borne him. according to him. Although geographical location might be one factor. p. Obviously it is not physical space that measures the gap between mediator and the desiring subject. We have seen Don Quixote himself explain to Sancho the privileged part Amadis plays in his life. He worships his model openly and declares himself his disciple. It is always easy to recognize analogies between two novels of external mediation. And yet the imitation is no less strict and literal in internal mediation than in external mediation. he thinks only of repudiating the bonds of mediation. carefully hides them. Everything that originates with this mediator is systematically belittled although still secretly 3 . The subject is torn between two opposite feelings toward his model---the most submissive reverence and the most intense malice. 11] hatred. and from himself. The secondary role of the mediator thus becomes primary. If it seems surprising it is not only because the imitation refers to a model who is ‘close. it is the mediator who is responsible for the rivalry. In the quarrel which puts him in opposition to his rival. in the mechanical obstacle which he puts in his way. But these bonds are stronger than ever. the subject reverses the logical and chronological order of desires in order to hide his imitation.
11) Jealousy and envy Jealousy and envy imply a third presence: object. in other words to imitate the desires of others? Max Scheler numbers ‘envy. nor the paralysis that accompanies envy. in the strong sense of the word. As a result he always maintains that his desire preceded the intervention of the mediator. p.’ (Girard. 13) The analysis is accurate and complete . He would have us see him as an intruder. and rivalry’ among the sources of ressentiment. since we say that these chronic victims of jealousy or of envy have a ‘jealous temperament’ or an ‘envious nature. that there would be no envy. on the other hand. Like all victims of internal mediation. that is deeply rooted in the object and in this object alone. he obstinately thwarts his most legitimate ambitions. But true jealousy is infinitely more profound and complex. our efforts to acquire it fail and we are left with a feeling of impotence. p. 12] something because it belongs to another.’ What exactly then does such a ‘temperament’ or ‘nature’ imply if not an irresistible impulse to desire what Others desire. a bore. in other words. Now the mediator is a shrewd and diabolical enemy. ‘Mere regret at not possessing something which belongs to another and which we covet is not enough in itself to give rise to envy since it might also be an incentive for acquiring the desired object or something similar…Envy occurs only when. Is it possible that they are all victims by repeated accidents? Is it fate that creates for them so many rivals and throws so many obstacles in the way of their desires? We do not believe it ourselves.’ He observes. Jealousy is thus reduced to the irritation we all experience when one of our desires is accidentally thwarted. he tries to rob the subject of his most prized possessions. however we never recognize a model in the person who arouses jealousy because we always take a jealous person’s attitude toward the problem of jealousy. On the other hand everything becomes clear. the jealous person easily convinces himself that his desire is spontaneous.desired. in order to explain envby. it is always the same people who suffer from jealousy. subject. a terzo incomodo who interrupts a delightful tete-a-tete. He defines envy as ‘a feeling of impotence which vitiates our attempt to acquire [end of p. we abandon the object of rivalry as a staring point and choose instead the rival himself. it walways contains an element of fascination with the insolent rival. Furthermore. (Girard. 4 . scheler has not really perceived their relationship. everything fits into a coherent structure if. if the envious person’s imagination did not transform into concerted opposition the passive obstacle which the possessor puts in his way by the mere fact of possession. jealousy. it omits neither the envious person’s selfdeception with regard to the cause of his failure. These two ‘vices’ are therefore triangular. But these elements remain isolated. and a third person toward whom the jealousy or envy is directed.
All these dogmas are the aesthetic or philosophic translation of world views peculiar to internal mediation. Rivalry therefore only aggravates mediation. Max Scheler himself is not far from the truth when he stares in Ressentiment that ‘the fact of choosing a model for oneself’ is the result of a certain tendency. The Romantic Vaniteux The romantic vaniteux always wants to convince himself that his desire is written into the nature of things. (Girard. the mediator. even though they may be similar to or indeed identical with the ‘mediated’ object. They all depend directly or indirectly on the lie of spontaneous desire. 15] rooted in the Other. to compare oneself with others. They all defend the same illusion of autonomy to which modern man is passionately devoted.[end of p.’ But this intuition remains isolated. He seems to render evil for good. both originate in the image which we all have our own desires. it increases the mediator’s prestige and strengthens the bond which links the object to this mediator by forcing him to affirm openly his right or desire of possession. Desire is no longer rooted in the object perhaps. Possession is merely a passive obstacle. Everything becomes clear when one see that the loathed rival is actually a mediator. and he goes on to say. ‘all jealousy.i. p. The demigod seems to answer homage with a curse. 13]fers his prestige. that it is the emanation of a serene subjectivity. common to all men. idealisms and positivisms appear to be in opposition but are secretly in agreement to conceal the presence of the mediator. romanticisms and realisms. The objective and subjective fallacies are one and the same. Thus the subject is less capable than ever of giving up the inaccessible object: it is on this object and it alone that the mediator con. Only the great artists attribute to the mediator the position usurped by the object. The subject would like to think of himself as the victim of an atrocious injustice but in his anguish he wonders whether perhaps he does not deserve his apparent condemnation. or which amounts to the same thing.. the creation of ex nihilo of a quasi-divine ego. Other objects have no worth at all in the eyes of the envious person.e. only they reverse the commonly accepted hierarchy of desire. individualisms and scienticisms. 16) 5 . Subjectivisms and objectivisms. as both a point of departure for our analysis and its conclusion. it is certainly not [end of p. it is frustrating and seems a deliberate expression of contempt only because the rival is secretly revered. by possessing or wanting to possess it. but it is rooted in the subject. all ambition. and even an ideal like the ‘imitation of Christ’ is based on such comparisons.
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