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172Philosophy and Literature and persistence" (p. 1) is required to grasp Hölderlin's unique contribution to the history ofideas. What diis amounts to in practice is careful contextualization, painstaking attention to textual details, and above all, respect for the limits beyond which these texts remain inaccessible. Pfau's superbcritical introduction, which traces the genesis ofHölderlin's thought through a close reading ofthree short fragments, demonstrates these virtues in an exemplary fashion. One hopes that those fascinated by absent centers and broken totalities will follow his example. Indiana UniversityEva M. Knodt Things Hidden Since the Foundation ofthe World, by René Girard; translated by Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer; 469 pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987, $30.00. René Girard may turn out among a handful of researchers of our age who changed the way we think about who and where we are. Things Hidden Since tL· Foundation ofthe World is the culminating installment of a project that began in 1961 with Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque (translated as Deceit, Desire and tL· Novel) and continued in 1972 with La Violence et le sacré (translated as Violence and tL· Sacred). In the first book, Girard proposed that desire (in the great European novel) is imitative and appropriative in origin (rather than spontaneous or objectivai). And in the second, he expanded that analysis to cultural order at large. Modern culture, he argued, experiences such runaway mimetic desire because it lacks the protections that universally inform cultural orders anthropologists tag as "primitive," and in particular the distinction between the sacred and the profane. In the primitive community, the sacred is violence effectively quarantined from humancontactand violence nothingother dian the sacred descended from its transcendent locus to plague the city. Sacrifice , in this context, is the mechanism by which the distinction between diem is sustained. In a "sacrificial crisis" in which the distinctions that normally insure harmony suddenly destroy it (and human beings become through their reciprocal violence in effect "enemy twins"), the collective substitution of a surrogate victim for the one that each dreams of "sacrificing" can "miraculously" restore order and we are led to assume that the same (or similar) structurative mechanisms made possible the community itself. In the third book, Girard completes this analysis. Given the reliance of the primitive mechanism (for its efficaciousness) upon its own mystification, how can we—we must wonder—both articulate this mechanism and survive it? The answer for Girard is the Gospel. The evangelical text—and in particular the Reviews173 persecution and passion ofJesus—demystifies the mechanism of sacrificial violence and its foundational effects. Occurring as the culminating development ofarevelatory process thatbegan with the Hebrew Torah, the Gospel formulates at large whatJesus says (in effect) to the Pharisees specifically: Oh you scribes, you hypocrites, don't you see what you are doing? You say that had you been there (at the event of the stoning of the prophets) you would not have participated . But don't you see that in making that claim, in putting yourself at a sacred and inviolable remove from those who stoned the prophets, you are doing the same thing? Moreover, those who come after you, will (in my name) repeat your violent and differentiating gesture with increasing ferocity, calling themselves "Christians" and you "Jews." The course of historical Christianity, in Girard's view, is pervasively reflective of such sacrificial misunderstanding. It is a powerful thesis—one not easily dismissed since it is at once specific enough to engage the details that social scientists require and general enough to be applied globally. The book's organization facilitates this double applicability . Not unlike the theory ofwhich it is an exposition, it is composed of three parts: a section on "fundamental anthropology" in which "the process of hominization " and its transfiguration within "myth" are related to modern religious studies and the scientistic tenor—the "cultural Platonism"—of our age; a section on the anti-sacrificial readings of the Gospel; and a final section in which Girard returns to his earlier concern with mimetic desire and relates it to (Freudian and Lacanian) psychoanalysis in context of the Gospel revelation. Questions can still be posed. One may suggest, for example, that it is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 172-173
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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