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94 THE MINNESOTA REVIEW dibly difficult but important will be the'struggle for critical articulation and action in the years to come. Marc Zimmerman Rene Girard, "To Double Business Bound":Essays on Literature, Mimesis, and Anthropology. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978. $15.00. Hayden White, Tropics ofDiscourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978. $17.50. As Michael Messmer has noted in a fine essay (see The CentennialReview, XXII), much of the most challenging critical work today proceeds along "interdisciplinary" lines. Literary critics, in particular, have become adept at borrowing terms and procedures from other fields, including philosophy, linguistics, and anthropology. But Messmer is correct, I think, to warn us against over-estimating the effect of these new interdisciplinary studies. Many of them are valuable and provocative, yet the disciplines themselves continue to retain their individual character: we may have interdisciplinary work, but it is still practiced and taught within the confines of our separate disciplines and departmental structures. There are, I believe, other problems with our "vogue" (as Messmer calls it) for "the interdisciplinary." One is the aridity of some recent critical books and essays, which, far from breaking new ground, merely process the literary text through a linguistic machine or apparatus taken from another discipline, and thereby add to a list of "readings" that is already too long. But a more important problem—one that affects even the best interdisciplinary work—is that critics often propose or gesture towards a radical program or course of studies only to return, in the end, to an enclosure like the one they have attempted to escape; or else they make powerful statements on behalf of a new method, yet refuse, finally to address its full implications, turning something "new" into a re-statement of an old and familiar critical platform. Both René Girard and Hayden White are among our most skillful interdisciplinary scholars. But their new books testify, I think, as much to their limitations as to their skills. Girard's "To Double Business Bound": Essays on Literature, Mimesis, and Anthropology, collects work that has already appeared injournals, including essays on Dante, Camus, Lévi-Strauss, Dostoevski, and others, a long reviewarticle on Deleuze's and Guattari's L'Anti-Oedipe, and a thirty-page interview with Girard that was published inDiacritics (March 1978); and it mostly recapitulates the major themes of Violence and the Sacred (1972; trans. 1977), where Girard examined the place ofimitative desire, rivalry, and victimage in literature and society. But this new book heightens as well as repeats Girard's claims: he now insists on the centrality of his "hypothesis" for all studies of religion, myth, and culture. "Unanimous victimage," he maintains, "is the generative mechanism of all religious and cultural institutions"; it is, he adds, "the one mechanism truly able to supplant and supersede all the earlier solutions to the paradoxes of human culture and the human subject" (pp. 199, 218). Briefly stated, Girard's argument is that desire is always "mimetic": one person "imitates" the desire of another REVIEWS 95 person, deciding that he must possess a certain object because the other person has "designated" it to be desirable. As two or more persons come to desire the same object, they become rivals, copying one another's gambits and strategies in an effort to attain their goal. This struggle quickly intensifies, as the rivals grow more and more "like" one another (even as they strive to be "different" from one another), and produces a "reciprocal violence" that threatens to destroy the community. "Once there is nothing left but the doubles in confrontation," Girard then states, "the slightest accident, the tiniest sign can cause all reciprocal hatred to be fixed on one of them" (pp. 103-4); joined in a common bond against the "scapegoat victim," men restore unity to the society. But how does the society prevent the outbreak of another mimetic crisis? "Prohibitions" are one method; a second, Girard explains, is "ritual," which re-enacts conflict in a "safe" form, limiting the violence and controlling it. In studying the process of mimesis and victimage, we must, Girard observes, remember important points. First, there is no "privileged object" for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 94-98
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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