Desire, Trauma, and Mimetic Theory
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Title page, Series page, Copyright, Dedication
The idea for this book emerged during a faculty seminar on Antigone at the University of Northern Iowa and crystallized when Rosemary Johnsen invited me to present a paper on Antigone at an annual meeting of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R). I realized...
Preface. The Family, Feminist Scholarship, and Mimetic Theory
Great relationships sometimes never get off the ground because of a bad first date. With little knowledge of each other’s backgrounds or personal styles, two individuals may interpret a communication snafu as a sign of fundamental incompatibility and never move on to...
Introduction. Family Matters
Oprah Winfrey, icon of popular culture, pens a monthly column titled “What I Know For Sure.” Less bold than Oprah, who has been espousing sureties for years, I am certain of few things. However, beyond a doubt, I know that our early life experiences shape our lives...
Part 1. In Search of Lost Time
Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is a powerful account of mimetic desire. Proust confronts us with the bankruptcy of the narrator’s desires as well as with our own; so also does he enable us to participate in the narrator’s release from the strictures of desire and his...
Chapter 1. The Eyes of a Parricide
According to Girard, an exploration of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time should not begin with the novel; rather, it should commence with reflection on a newspaper essay by Proust titled “Filial Sentiments of a Parricide.”1 Girard argues that this essay constitutes a transformative...
Chapter 2. Of Madeleines, Mothers, and Montjouvain
My route forward with Proust begins with the madeleine. Girard cites the madeleine as a preliminary revelation for Proust—a “first glimmer of novelistic grace” for the novel that is to come—and Kristeva also begins her reflections on Proust with the madeleine.1 However...
Chapter 3. The Journey Home Is through the World
The narrator of In Search of Lost Time is beset by trauma. By his own admission, he locates suff ering in two maternally marked experiences in his past. Th e event he cites first is that fateful evening when his “mother abdicated her authority,” in the young Marcel’s bedroom at Combray...
Part 2. Antigone
Siblings play a critical role in mimetic rivalries that characterize the family romance. As a consequence, our relations with siblings anticipate, for better or worse, later adult relationships. As we grow and our world expands beyond the immediate family to encompass other relationships...
Chapter 4. The House of Labdacus: On Kinship and Sacrifice
Sophocles’s three Theban plays—Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus—are not formally a trilogy. Sophocles wrote the plays across the span of his career and Antigone, whose dramatic action comes late in the chronology of Oedipus’s family, was likely written and...
Chapter 5. Trauma and the Theban Cycle
How can intimacy become a subject for critical reflection?1 Intimacy is typically understood to focus on emotions of love and supportive family bonds. But if family life is the beginning point for reflection on intimacy, it is not the only terrain we can explore in an...
Chapter 6. Antigone and the Ethics of Intimacy
Traumatic violence has caught Oedipus in an ongoing repetition of mimetic rivalry, rooting him in an eternal present. Compellingly demonstrated not only in Oedipus the King but also in Oedipus at Colonus, his trauma is visceral. For Oedipus’s suffering is written on his body...
Part 3. The Old Man and the Wolves
The father is dead. On this point, Julia Kristeva and René Girard agree. What then can be said any longer of the paternal function? What legacy of the father persists in ongoing economies of sacrifice? And, if the father is not actually dead but only missing in action within the family...
Chapter 7. Not a Country for Old Men: Violence and Mimesis in Santa Varvara
The Old Man and the Wolves begins with a tale called “Th e Invasion.” After crossing a frozen river and a windswept plain, wolves from the north now lurk on the edges of Santa Varvara seeking their prey. These “gray-coated, sharp-nosed carnivores, slinking singly or in packs...
Chapter 8. To Glimpse a World without Wolves: From Conflict to Compassion
Kristeva names the concluding section of The Old Man and the Wolves “Capriccio.” “Capriccio” focuses on multiple metamorphoses. Replicating and augmenting the transferential setting of the detective story, these changes radicalize its questions: What is the ultimate source of...