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Intimate Domain

Desire, Trauma, and Mimetic Theory

Martha J. Reineke

Publication Year: 2014

For René Girard, human life revolves around mimetic desire, which regularly manifests itself in acquisitive rivalry when we find ourselves wanting an object because another wants it also. Noting that mimetic desire is driven by our sense of inadequecy or insufficency, Girard arrives at a profound insight: our desire is not fundamentally directed toward the other’s object but toward the other’s being. We perceive the other to possess a fullness of being we lack. Mimetic desire devolves into violence when our quest after the being of the other remains unfulfilled. So pervasive is mimetic desire that Girard describes it as an ontological illness. In Intimate Domain, Reineke argues that it is necessary to augment Girard’s mimetic theory if we are to give a full account of the sickness he describes. Attending to familial dynamics Girard has overlooked and reclaiming aspects of his early theorizing on sensory experience, Reineke utilizes psychoanalytic theory to place Girard’s mimetic theory on firmer ground. Drawing on three exemplary narratives—Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, Sophocles’s Antigone, and Julia Kristeva’s The Old Man and the Wolves—the author explores familial relationships. Together, these narratives demonstrate that a corporeal hermeneutics founded in psychoanalytic theory can usefully augment Girard’s insights, thereby insuring that mimetic theory remains a definitive resource for all who seek to understand humanity’s ontological illness and identify a potential cure.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Series: Studies in Violence, Mimesis and Culture

Title page, Series page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

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...

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Preface. The Family, Feminist Scholarship, and Mimetic Theory

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pp. xi-xxiv

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...

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Introduction. Family Matters

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pp. xxv-xlviii

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

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Prelude. Mothers

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pp. 3-16

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...

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Chapter 1. The Eyes of a Parricide

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pp. 17-28

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...

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Chapter 2. Of Madeleines, Mothers, and Montjouvain

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pp. 29-56

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...

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Chapter 3. The Journey Home Is through the World

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pp. 57-78

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

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Prelude. Siblings

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pp. 81-92

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...

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Chapter 4. The House of Labdacus: On Kinship and Sacrifice

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pp. 93-120

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...

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Chapter 5. Trauma and the Theban Cycle

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pp. 121-140

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...

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Chapter 6. Antigone and the Ethics of Intimacy

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pp. 141-176

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

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Prelude. Fathers

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pp. 179-200

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...

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Chapter 7. Not a Country for Old Men: Violence and Mimesis in Santa Varvara

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pp. 201-224

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...

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Chapter 8. To Glimpse a World without Wolves: From Conflict to Compassion

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pp. 225-262

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...


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pp. 263-348


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pp. 349-360


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pp. 361-368

E-ISBN-13: 9781609174156
E-ISBN-10: 1609174151
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611861280
Print-ISBN-10: 1611861284

Page Count: 414
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Studies in Violence, Mimesis and Culture