BOOKS

René Girard wrote nearly thirty books and the number of books by other authors using mimetic theory is too vast to enumerate here. We hope this list gives you a good place to start exploring the areas of mimetic theory that interest you.

By René Girard

Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure translated by Yvonne Freccero
This study extends beyond the scope of literature into the psychology of much of our contemporary scene, including fashion, advertising, and propaganda techniques. In considering such aspects, the author goes beyond the domain of pure aesthetics and offers an interpretation of some basic cultural problems of our time.

Violence and the Sacred translated by Patrick Gregory.
This fascinating and ambitious book provides a fully developed theory of violence as the ‘heart and secret soul’ of the sacred. Girard’s fertile, combative mind links myth to prophetic writing, primitive religions to classical tragedy.

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World translated by Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer
This is the single fullest summation of Girard’s ideas to date, the book by which they will stand or fall. In a dialogue with two psychiatrists (Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort), Girard probes an encyclopedic array of topics, ranging across the entire spectrum of anthropology, psychoanalysis, and cultural production.

I See Satan Fall Like Lightning translated by James G. Williams
René Girard holds up the gospels as mirrors that reveal our broken humanity, and shows that they also reflect a new reality that can make us whole. Like Simone Weil, Girard looks at the Bible as a map of human behavior, and sees Jesus Christ as the turning point leading to new life. The title echoes Jesus’ words: “I saw Satan falling like lightning from heaven.” Girard persuades us that even as our world grows increasingly violent the power of the Christ-event is so great that the evils of scapegoating and sacrifice are being defeated even now. A new community, God’s nonviolent kingdom, is being realized—even now.

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.

A Theatre of Envy: William Shakespeare
In this groundbreaking work, one of our foremost literary and cultural critics turns to the major figure in English literature, William Shakespeare, and proposes a dramatic new reading of nearly all his plays and poems. The key to A Theater of Envy is Rene Girard’s novel reinterpretation of “mimesis.” For Girard, people desire objects not for their intrinsic value, but because they are desired by someone else–we mime or imitate their desires. This envy–or “mimetic desire”–he sees as one of the foundations of the human condition.

Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre
In Battling to the End, René Girard engages Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), the Prussian military theoretician who wrote On War. Clausewitz, who has been critiqued by military strategists, political scientists, and philosophers, famously postulated that “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” He also seemed to believe that governments could constrain war. Battling to the Endpushes aside the taboo that prevents us from seeing that the apocalypse has begun. Human violence is escaping our control; today it threatens the entire planet.

Introducing Mimetic Theory

The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things by Suzanne Ross
This thinking person’s guide to the wildly successful Broadway musical Wicked uses political, social, and historical examples to explore the ways in which modern society is not so different than the mythical Land of Oz. The Wicked Truth challenges the very framework of our culture, our understanding of Good and Evil, as well as our sense of right and wrong. Whether you’ve seen the show or not, discovering The Wicked Truth’s broad application, to everything from personal relationships to how our society is governed, will leave you spellbound.

The Wicked Truth about Love: The Tangles of Desire by Suzanne Ross
Author Suzanne Ross guides the reader in an engaging exploration of their personal romantic patterns using a survey based on the triangular nature of desire. Six patterns of desire are identified to reveal the readers mimetic pitfalls. Whimsical illustrations, examples in contemporary entertainment, original music downloads and witty wisdom allows the reader to understand and dismantle their romantic tangles, leaving them free to discover the gift that love can be.

Compassion or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard by James Warren
Many people are beginning to find in Girard answers to troublesome questions such as: Is God violent? Is there a necessary relationship between violence and religion? Why are there so many violent stories in the Bible? Why did Jesus have to die? Are we living in the end times? In clear, understandable prose, Compassion or Apocalypse shows how the Girardian perspective answers such questions, making Girard’s mimetic theory and its application to biblical interpretation available to those who have little or no familiarity with Girard’s work. To read the Bible from a Girardian point of view is to discover the radical message of God’s nonviolent love in its historical wrestling with human violence, and its immanent confrontation with the gathering human apocalypse.

Discovering Girard by Michael Kirwan
The work of René Girard is hugely influential in literature and cultural studies. But it is in understanding the relationship between religion and violence that his theory has created its greatest impact. Girard’s understanding of mimetic rivalry and conflict and of scapegoating is seen by many to be the key to a completely new understanding of Christianity. This bool explains and appraises Girard’s mimetic theory, shows its impact on theology and other disciplines, and manages to convey the excitement that a discovery of Girard’s ideas often generates in readers.

Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads by Gil Bailie
This is a Girardian-influenced, engagingly written classic on the nature of violence and the hope for overcoming it in our conflict-ridden world. It is also a literary work, an often miraculous interplay between cultural documents and historical periods.

René Girard: Violence and Mimesis by Chris Fleming
In this much-needed introduction, Chris Fleming traces the development of Girard’s thought over forty years, describing the context in which he worked and his influence on a number of disciplines. He unpacks the hypotheses at the centre of Girard’s thought – mimetic desire, surrogate victimage and scapegoating, myth, ritual, and the sacred – and provides an assessment of Girard’s place in the contemporary academy.

The Girard Reader edited by James G. Williams
In one volume, an anthology of seminal work of one of the twentieth century’s most original thinkers.

Girardians: The Colloquium on Violence and Religion, 1990-2010  by James Williams
This book documents the story of the Colloquium on Violence & Religion (COV&R), founded at Stanford University in 1990. COV&R brings together international scholars and educators in various fields who are dedicated to the exploration, criticism, and development of Rene Girard’s mimetic model of the relationship between violence and religion in the genesis and maintenance of culture. Girard’s work has generated a diversity of interdisciplinary research programs. The book recounts the history of COV&R’s meetings and the research of its members and friends that have had a special role in the adventure of ideas flowing from Girard’s mimetic theory.

Surveys of Mimetic Theory

René Girard’s Mimetic Theory (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, & Culture) by Wolfgang Palaver
A systematic introduction into the mimetic theory of the French-American literary theorist and philosophical anthropologist René Girard, this essential text explains its three main pillars (mimetic desire, the scapegoat mechanism, and the Biblical “difference”) with the help of examples from literature and philosophy. This book also offers an overview of René Girard’s life and work, showing how much mimetic theory results from existential and spiritual insights into one’s own mimetic entanglements.

Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation with Walter Burkert and Jonathan Z. Smit, edited by Robert Hamerton-Kelly
Burkert, Girard, and Smith hold important and contradictory theories about the nature and origin of ritual sacrifice, and the role violence plays in religion and culture. These papers and conversations derive from a conference that pursued the possibility and utility of a general theory of religion and culture, especially one based on violence. The special value of this volume is the conversations as such — the real record of working scholars engaged with one another’s theories, as they make and meet challenges, and move and maneuver. 

Contagion
Contagion is the journal of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R), an international association of scholars founded in 1990 and dedicated to the exploration, criticism, and development of René Girard’s mimetic model of the relationship between violence and religion in the genesis and maintenance of culture.

Neuroscience and Psychology

Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with Others by Marco Iacoboni
What accounts for our remarkable ability to get inside another person’s head–to know what he or she is thinking and feeling? Marco Iacoboni, a leading neuroscientist, explains the groundbreaking research into mirror neurons, the “smart cells” in our brain that allow us to understand others. From imitation to morality, from political affiliations to consumer choices, mirror neurons are relevant to myriad aspects of social cognition. Mirroring People is the first book for the general reader on this revolutionary new science.

Mimesis and Science: Empirical Research on Imitation and the Mimetic Theory of Culture and Religion (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, & Culture) edited by Scott R. Garrels
This exciting compendium brings together, for the first time, some of the foremost scholars of René Girard’s mimetic theory, with leading imitation researchers from the cognitive, developmental, and neuro sciences. These chapters explore some of the major discoveries and developments concerning the foundational, yet previously overlooked, role of imitation in human life, revealing the unique theoretical links that can now be made from the neural basis of social interaction to the structure and evolution of human culture and religion.

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Anthony Damasio
Since Descartes famously proclaimed, “I think, therefore I am,” science has often overlooked emotions as the source of a person’s true being. Even modern neuroscience has tended, until recently, to concentrate on the cognitive aspects of brain function, disregarding emotions. This attitude began to change with the publication of Descartes’ Error in 1995. Antonio Damasio—”one of the world’s leading neurologists” (The New York Times)—challenged traditional ideas about the connection between emotions and rationality. In this wondrously engaging book, Damasio takes the reader on a journey of scientific discovery through a series of case studies, demonstrating what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking and to normal social behavior.

The Genesis of Desire (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture) by Jean-Michel Oughourlian
Our desire makes us sick. The throes of rivalry are at the heart of our attraction to one another. This is the central thesis of Jean-Michel Oughourlian’s The Genesis of Desire, where the war of the sexes is finally given a scientific explanation. The discovery of mirror neurons corroborates his ideas, clarifying the phenomena of empathy and the mechanisms of violent reciprocity.

Theology

Jesus, the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice by James Alison
What James Alison had in mind when he began putting together Jesus the Forgiving Victim course over 12 years ago, was to restore to the Christian life the wonder and transformative power of discovering not some new Biblical fact or church doctrine, but that you are loved far more than you know. Where a course of instruction tells you about something, gives you information, a course of induction, which is what Jesus the Forgiving Victim is, works cumulatively and allows you to find yourself summoned into being on the inside of something new.

Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-In by James Alison
An exciting and original thesis on religion and violence, on gay/straight issues, and the recovery of an authentically Catholic vision of life. James Alison challenges readers inside and outside the churches to transform their understanding of Christianity and of human desire.

The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes by James Alison
This original work of theological anthropology looks at original sin in the light of the Resurrection, and shows how forgiveness has become the way of transformation.

The Jesus Driven Life by Michael Hardin
Utilizing the work of Rene Girard, The Jesus Driven Life takes us beyond the dead ends and false trails of much Christian interpretation of the Bible. Come discover a new and exciting Way of living in the world as true humans who imitate the crucified and risen Lord! Walter Wink: The Jesus Driven Life is nothing less than a magisterial synthesis of much that can be known about Jesus and the early centuries of Christianity and their continuing relevance for today.

Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross by S. Mark Heim
The cross has long been not only a scandal but also a profound paradox: filled with saving significance and power, it is at the same time a sobering tragedy. In Saved from Sacrifice theologian Mark Heim takes on this paradox, asserting that the cross must be understood against the whole history of human scapegoating violence.

The Bible, Violence, and the Sacred: Liberation from the Myth of Sanctioned Violence by James G. Williams
Girard’s theories on violence, civilization, and religion have intrigued and confounded scholars in the humanities for almost two decades. In this book, Williams has provided the first comprehensive application of Girard’s thought to the whole Bible. What emerges from all of this is a proposal for a biblical theology of the nonviolent God.

The Prophetic Law: Essays in Judaism, Girardianism, Literary Studies, and the Ethical by Sandor Goodhart
In The Prophetic Law, literary scholar, theorist, and critic Sandor Goodhart divides his essays on René Girard since 1983 into four groupings. In three, he addresses Girardian concerns with Biblical scripture (Genesis and Exodus), literature (the European novel and Shakespeare), and philosophy and religious studies issues (especially ethical and Jewish subject matters). In a fourth section, he reproduces some of the polemical exchanges in which he has participated with others—including René Girard himself—as part of what could justly be deemed Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Many Other Academic Disciplines

For the latest books applying mimetic theory across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines, including psychology, economics, politics, philosophy, and linguistics see the Michigan State University Press series, Studies in Violence , Mimesis and Culture.