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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 less Christianity that has enabled an anti-sacrificial view of cultural order than Judaism, and that the Gospel text—with its critique of idolatry and prophetic logic—is fundamentally Jewish (an "episode in the history of Judaism"), reconceiving the Mosaic revelation of the radical otherness of transcendence for a wider audience. But in doing so one would only be paying tribute to the extraordinary brilliance and generative power of Girard's own inquiry and its critical importance for our continuing interrogation of the conditions (and survival) of our life on the planet. Cornell UniversitySandor Goodhart The Ethics of Criticism, by Tobin Siebers; ? & 246 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988, $29.95. Siebers's thesis is that literary criticism is fundamentally ethical, involving real human beings in real choices, and that to the extent that literary critics deny this context and this subject matter (and substitute instead language or the 174Philosophy and Literature nonhuman in its place) they enact against each other the same violence against which their criticism is written. In an astonishingly wide-ranging and forceful series of studies of moral philosophy, American new criticism, structural anthropology , deconstruction, genealogical criticism, psychoanalysis, feminism, and nuclearcriticism, Siebers traces this subordination ofthe human to language (or the nonhuman) and the "preoccupation" ofmodern criticism with "conflict" (P- 6). Foucault proclaims, for example, "the death of Man" as an argument for "the necessity of abandoning the human for the linguistic" (pp. 2-3). Both Nietzsche and René Girard, in Siebers's view, condemn the failure of contemporary psychology only to find "moral direction" in forces that exceed the human—in "Christ or the overman." Paul de Man renders "death a linguistic predicament" and language "a kind ofdivinity," while Freud and Lacan privilege sexuality in human character only to mystify that same sexuality as "an impasse in human relations." And so forth. Moreover, under the "cloak" of language or such common recourse to the other-than-human, contemporary criticism remains as "violent" or "conflictual" as it accuses its enemies ofbeing. Lévi-Strauss "does violence to the Nambikwara by attributing to them an inhumanly noble and innocent nature." Derrida attacks Lévi-Strauss for his Rousseauism only in turn to "violate him by blaming him for the not-so-noble actions ofthe Nambikwara's social system" (p. 8). American new critics "counter the prejudices" of biographical critics "with a vision of poetic autonomy," which depends upon an "analogy between poetic intentionality and intentionality in murder" which they have derived from those critics...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 173-175
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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