ENGLISH 490 - History of Literary Criticism and Theory
Section: 001 Rene Girard and Mimetic Theory
Term: FA 2018
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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May not be repeated for credit.
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The “mimetic theory” associated with René Girard (1923-2015) is a truly interdisciplinary theory engaging the fields of literary criticism, anthropology, religious studies, psychotherapy, political science, and other disciplines. Its most basic insight, first articulated by Girard in Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (1961; trans. 1965), is that human desire is mimetic or imitative. Put simply, we borrow our desires from others, our “models” or “mediators,” and thus we are intensely social, interconnected beings. Recent neuroscience research on “mirror neurons” in the brain confirms it. From this observation, however, things become complicated; indeed, Girard developed a universal theory of all human culture following the logic of mimetic desire. This theory can be rather dark, involving mimetic rivalry, mob violence, scapegoating, sacrifice, and “strongmen.” But it also finds hope in religion, art, literature, and other expressions of culture. This course presents an introductory overview of the mimetic theory, focusing on Girard’s work, with many opportunities for textual application and criticism. Other texts to be studied include myths, selections from the Bible, fiction, and film. No previous coursework in critical theory is required or expected. Required work: papers, exams, reading quizzes.

Course Requirements:

No previous coursework in critical theory is required or expected. Required work: papers, exams, reading quizzes.

ENGLISH 490 - History of Literary Criticism and Theory
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
Th 4:00PM - 7:00PM
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