lds-herm blog

Discussion of hermeneutics, esp. as it pertains to LDS scripture

The Scapegoat, ch. 6: “Ases, Curetes, and Titans”

Posted by Robert C. on September 3, 2007

I’m really time pressed this week, so I’m going to simply mention what I personally found most intriguing in this chapter: the issue of transference. On p. 72, Girard writes:

In their eyes collective murder is too scandalous to be authentic. They do not consider it a falsification of the text when they reinterpret that scene in their own fashion. They consider the transmission of the myth at fault. Instead of faithfully reporting the tradition handed down to them, their forefathers must have corrupted it because they could not understand it. In this myth, too, the violence that was formerly shared by many is attributed to one god only, Kronos, who as a result of this transference becomes truly monstrous. This sort of caricature is unusual in myths that portray collective murder. There is a certain sharing of good and evil: moral dualism appears as collective violence is eliminated.

I keep trying to find time to read some books on Lacanian psychoanalysis, so I guess this is why this passage stuck out to me. I think that the process of reading is a process through which we can tap into our unconscious and subconscoius selves and desires in really interesting ways. And I think that’s one of Girard’s most interesting insights, how he seems to take history as a process of pushing issues of mimetic rivalry further and further away from conscious mind so that it becomes more and more hidden in the recesses of our un-/subconscious minds, and therefore even more active and powerful in our lives and society (at least that’s my guess as to what Girard’s doing, a good chance I’m way off…).

Well, I’ve got to run. Please feel free to discuss this or any other topic of interest from the chapter (or previous chapters).

As to the schedule, if we do all of chapter 7 next week, I think we’ll be back on schedule (Joe or Cheryl, I’ll let you guys duke it out as to who posts next week…).

Also, if anyone else is interested, Joe and I are planning to start working through Patocka’s Plato and Europe sometime in the next few weeks (this is partly in response to reading Derrida’s The Gift of Death wherein he discusses Patocka quite a bit, and partly in response to a desire to think more about political issues in general). I don’t think it’ll be a problem having two books being discussed here simultaneously, and I sort of like the idea of having multiple projects going so that others can participate as time and interest allow.


6 Responses to “The Scapegoat, ch. 6: “Ases, Curetes, and Titans””

  1. Robert C. said

    Is anyone up for posting on chapter 7, perhaps this weekend or early next week? Cheryl, I think Joe’s still got a lot on his plate moving and starting school, but if you’re not up for it, let me know (and I can post again if Joe’s too swamped…). Hopefully schedules will clear up as we start into the more scripture-focused chapters.

  2. Robert C. said

    I think Joe’s finally going to be getting regular internet access again soon, and I think Cheryl’s getting back into the swing of things soon. We’ve gotten behind with the schedule—any thoughts on revising it? I’m inclined to just do 1 post that covers 2-3 chapters and then try to get back on the published schedule (chapter 9 seems to be where Girard starts discussing scripture). It’ll take a concerted effort on my part to get caught up in the reading, but if others are game, I could probably get caught up on the reading this weekend, I could maybe even write a post on chapters 7-8 (I know Cheryl’s already read the entire book, so I’m mainly addressing Joe and/or Rob and/or Nannette and/or any other possible lurkers, though of course Cheryl can still vote!). Somebody let me know though, so I have the motivation to get caught up in the reading (I’m also reading Totality and Infinity this fall which is taking up a lot of my spare reading time, and then some…).

  3. joespencer said

    Okay, let me get caught up to speed on all of this sometime tomorrow (as a goal only!). I do have internet access again, and more time as a result.


  4. joespencer said

    For a couple of odd reasons, I found myself reading Girard again today, picking up by getting around at last to this chapter, though we’ve left this project off for a couple of months. But, fascinatingly, I was fascinated! In the end, I think I’m quite glad that I have been away from Girard for the meanwhile, because I think I now have a better sense of what he’s doing. I don’t know if that is a result of what I’ve read and thought about in the interim, or if it is just a result of coming back with a fresh outlook. Whatever it is, I’m hooked and want to get us rolling again, if I can.

    Much of this chapter is pretty straightforward, so I just want to drawn on what seem to me to be its three most significant moments. First, on p. 68: “The answer lies in the idea that the ancestors saw clearly what there was to see in the primordial epiphany but interpreted it wrongly.” The idea here is that while mythology is born as an image of a real situation of collective violence, a later generation of adherents to the particular myth of collective violence, because they reject the implication of such violence in an overtly religious text, offer up a new interpretation that they take to be more sophisticated, perhaps, but ultimately more true.

    This amounts to a kind of moralizing, which is clear from what I’ll call the second most important moment in the chapter: “There is a certain sharing of good and evil: moral dualism appears as collective violence is eliminated.” (p. 72). This is marvelous. Precisely as collective violence is repressed, the individual comes to be (Wo es war…), and one that is profoundly moral. Let me be really clear here: Girard sees a kind of repression here, in the midst of which two things emerge: individualism and morality/ethics. Another way to put this: as mythology becomes… philosophical? …it becomes political in the Greek sense. I see a kind of broadly Platonic moment here. And this means that this ties into Patocka (as well as into Freud! of course into Freud!). Which leads to the last really important moment.

    Third: “There is, in other words, a history of mythology.” (p. 74) The way Girard works this up—I’ve only excerpted the shortest line of the whole discussion here—has a kind of Nietzschean/Foucauldian appeal: he is, on the grounds of the text alone, working out an “internal” and perhaps even necessary “history” through the which the myth passes. But this history can be taken up in terms of Patocka: all mythology gives way to history (Ricoeur’s article on myth and history in the Encyclopedia of Religion suddenly strikes me as important again) or unfolds in a kind of historicizing towards political ethics. Mythology thus becomes something like the imaginary on the way to the symbolic (Lacanian terminology here), all based on the real that is the scene of collective violence.

    This was too terse. But perhaps it brings us back to some of the richness of Girard’s project. I know I will still have many, many issues with how all of this is to be applied to scripture (again, Ricoeur’s article on myth and history…), but I’m beginning to see the wealth that can be found in Girard’s project.

    To this project again! I’ll be working through chapter 7 as I have time over the next couple of days, and then I’ll write up a post in hopes of getting something rolling again.

  5. Robert C. said

    Yes, I think this relating of Girard with Patocka and Lacan sounds very interesting. You’ll have to dumb things down a bit for me to follow, however—I’ve already forgotten much of what I had been learning about Lacan, and of course I haven’t read any Patocka. But this issue of repression in historical development of mythology sounds very interesting, and something I remember being intrigued with, albeit vaguely, when I wrote this all-too-brief and cryptic post.

  6. joespencer said

    Girard makes this all quite a bit clearer, I think, in the first paragraphs of the following chapter (which I’m now about half-way through). The idea is actually quite straightforward. Girard believes that one can, on the grounds of the texts alone, detect a kind of history of mythological development that is, basically, universal: (1) there is a real event of collective violence; (2) it is encoded in mythology according to the four stereotypes laid out early in this book; (3) a later generation rebels against the explicit violence in the myth and rewrites it according to a displacement of collective violence into individual evil (and a general ethics emerges); (4) modernism, so to speak, emerges.

    Very interesting ideas. Chapter 7 provides much more food for thought as well.

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