- Mimetic Theory and Latin AmericaReception and Anticipations
The task of mapping the reception of mimetic theory in Latin America presents two challenges. On the one hand, rather than looking at just one country, this study has to take into account a mosaic of nations making up a continent, each with their own local diversities and particular complexities. Such circumstances impose specific rhythms onto the assimilation of Girardian thought, and being aware of these rhythms is vital to understanding the precise impact of mimetic theory. On the other hand, such a study also has to cover two languages, Spanish and Portuguese, which means identifying the translations of his work and the impact of Girard’s ideas in both of the languages.
And that is not all: such a mapping project must also bear in mind the reverberations of Girardian thought in Portugal and Spain—also through the mapping of the translations of Girard’s books, although this is not the main aim of this essay.1 [End Page 75]
As a result, I decided to face these challenges using a methodological approach that is suitable for the Latin American situation, namely, addressing the reception of mimetic theory privileging the dominant forms of the appropriation of René Girard’s ideas. Therefore, this study does not (and actually could not) intend to be exhaustive; rather it aims to characterize the dominant movements in the reception of mimetic theory in Latin America.
Indeed, the very architecture of mimetic theory is conducive to my approach, as the succession of three key works by René Girard helps to characterize the understanding of his theory. That is, we can sense the rhythm of Latin American readings of Girard by looking at the translations of and reactions to Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque (1961), La Violence et le sacré (1972), and Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde (1978).
In other words, I will primarily focus on the areas of literary criticism, anthropology, and biblical studies in seeking to understand the impact of Girardian thought.
As Girard’s intellectual trajectory proves, interdisciplinarity is the natural approach for a mimetically oriented reflection. Girard’s first book is a brilliant literary criticism and comparative literature essay. In his second book, he reinvented, literally, “literary criticism” by spreading its area of interest into anthropology, mythology, and religious studies. Finally, with the release of Des choses cachées, as the title suggests with its allusion to the Gospel of Matthew, the “literary-anthropological critic” once again forged himself a new identity through a very specific appropriation of Scripture. From then on, a theological and anthropological focus was the axis of his thought. In effect, the constant crossover of those two disciplines brought about the development of a mimetic anthropology, whose center of gravity was a preoccupation with religion, as well as an anthropologically oriented theology.
(Not to mention the intertextual dialogue Girard’s anthropology has established with the Bible and other religious traditions.)2
In both cases, the secret of Girard’s work is the unparalleled ability to discover surprising relationships between literary and religious texts from the most varied traditions. That is to say, his double training as a paleographer and literary critic has left indelible marks in his work and worldview. Even when his intellectual work took on new directions, his deep and detective-like reading of texts remained one of the most original traits of his writing.3 [End Page 76]
To conclude this essay, I will examine some of the anticipations of certain aspects of Girardian thought as shown in the work of the most important Latin American thinkers and writers. It is, however, vital to clarify immediately to what I refer with the term anticipations. It does not suggest that Latin American thinkers anticipated the complex architecture of mimetic theory but rather that some aspects of Latin American historical experience had (and still have) an unexpected structural affinity with Girard’s ideas.
Highlighting this affinity is another way to reinforce the importance of mimetic theory to a new understanding of Latin American cultures.
Step by step, then, let us look at the architecture of...