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The Prophetic Law

Essays in Judaism, Girardianism, Literary Studies, and the Ethical

Sandor Goodhart

Publication Year: 2014

To read literature is to read the way literature reads. René Girard’s immense body of work supports this thesis bountifully. Whether engaging the European novel, ancient Greek tragedy, Shakespeare’s plays, or Jewish and Christian scripture, Girard teaches us to read prophetically, not by offering a method he has developed, but by presenting the methodologies they have developed, the interpretative readings already available within (and constitutive of) such bodies of classical writing. 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. The twelve texts that make up the heart of this captivating volume constitute the bulk of the author’s writings to date on Girard outside of his three previous books on Girardian topics. Taken together, they offer a comprehensive engagement with Girard’s sharpest and most original literary, anthropological, and scriptural insights.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Series: Studies in Violence, Mimesis and Culture


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xiv

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An Introductionto Girardian Reading

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pp. xv-xxxvi

All of the essays that follow this introduction were delivered as papers or written directly for publication in relation to the work of René Girard. Many were conceived in connection with annual meetings of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion. Others were delivered at joint...

Dialogue among Girardians

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“I Am Joseph”

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pp. 3-32

In 1973, Eric Gans wrote that René Girard’s research in anthropology seemed to off er an “Archimedean point” from which the human sciences could one day be rethought.2 Gans may have underestimated the case. For what has occurred since Girard began writing in the early 1960s is a veritable...

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A Jewish-Christian Dialogue

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pp. 33-56

René Girard’s theory of the uniqueness of Christianity is based upon the theory of the innocent victim. Jesus of Nazareth for Girard is not simply another hero of Greek tragedy who becomes an enemy twin of everyone. Jesus does nothing violent and yet is willing to die to reveal the arbitrariness...

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al lo-chamas ’asah (AlthoughHe Had Done No Violence)

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pp. 57-76

This essay has three parts. In the first, I address the concern Willard Swartley expressed when he invited me to participate in the conference from which this material emerged: “I know that one of the liabilities in biblical scholarship appropriating Girard’s work is a potential...

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Response by René Girard andReply to René Girard

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pp. 77-92

Unfortunately, I could not attend the symposium at which the papers in the present volume were first presented and discussed. When Professor Willard Swartley, able organizer of this event as well as editor of its proceedings and a participant, kindly sent me all the manuscripts and invited me to comment...

Part 2: Girardian Reading and the Scriptural

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The End of Sacrifice

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pp. 95-116

At a moment when René Girard’s work is beginning to be known by a significantly larger public, a number of us who have been his students or colleagues for a number of years have begun to ask about the dimensions of its impact upon us, in particular, the way it has shaped our...

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From Sacrificial Violenceto Responsibility

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pp. 117-138

The word “education,” of course, comes from the Latin, educare, meaning “to lead out” or “to bring up,” and both its Latinate morphology and the semantic value it assumes in English reflect its peculiar history. To “lead out” implies in the first place leadership, which is to say a relationship between...

Part 3: Girardian Reading and the Literary

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Reading Religion, Literature,and the End of Desire

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pp. 141-148

Reading Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque again after fifty years, it is hard to forget the thrill of first encounters. “You know, Sancho, that Amadis of Gaul is the most perfect example of knight errantry, of knight chivalry, that ever was.” Cervantes wrote these words? In...

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“Nothing Extenuate”

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pp. 149-166

I should say at the outset that I have a particularly personal relation to this play. When I first started to write my doctoral dissertation with René Girard at suny Buff alo in 1972, it was on Shakespeare’s Othello that I started to write, although, in the end, when I turned in my dissertation, I submitted an...

Part 4: Girardian Reading and the Ethical

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Reading Halachicallyand Aggadically

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pp. 169-186

Professor Kimelman’s talk is a hard act to follow. I also find myself in a difficult situation because this is the first moment in our gathering in which someone who is genuinely from outside the COV&R group has come in to speak to us. So there is always the potential for the activation...

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The Self and Other People

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pp. 187-200

One of the “hot” topics in conflict resolution studies over the past thirty years or so has been the introduction of the idea of reconciliation.2 The idea behind it is that the resolution of conflict remains temporary as long as we focus exclusively upon the symptomatic issues at hand and that only...

From the Sacred to the Holy

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pp. 201-228

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Back to the Future

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pp. 229-242

It has oft en been said that Judaism is about prophetic thinking and Christianity about apocalyptic thinking, and there is, of course, much truth to that claim. But if Judaism reads prophetically, I would maintain, it does so necessarily in the wake of disaster: in order to understand the steps leading up to it, and to foresee new ones lest one fall prey to them accidentally. And...

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pp. 243-258

On the 15th of April in 2011, in a symposium on “René Girard and World Religions,” conducted at the University of California at Berkeley, I delivered a paper on the topic of “Judaism and the Exodus from Archaic Religion.” The planning for the meeting was unique in a...


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pp. 259-278


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pp. 279-290


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pp. 291-296

E-ISBN-13: 9781609174132
E-ISBN-10: 1609174135
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611861242
Print-ISBN-10: 1611861241

Page Count: 332
Illustrations: 1
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1st
Series Title: Studies in Violence, Mimesis and Culture
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OCLC Number: 870509578
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Prophetic Law

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Subject Headings

  • Girard, René, 1923-.
  • Philosophy, French -- 20th century.
  • Philosophy, Modern -- 20th century.
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