René Girard and Social Borders: A Commemoration - MMLA St. Louis, Nov 10-13, 2016

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Grace Stevens / Loyola University Chicago
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The 2016 MMLA conference will take place almost exactly a year after the death of René Girard, one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Hailed as the Darwin of the Social Sciences, Girard first understood mimetic desire (human desire as mediated, not spontaneous) when reading the "great novelists" such as Cervantes, Proust, and Dostoevsky. Following his book Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, Girard then explored the cultural origins of violence and the centrality of the unrecognized scapegoat mechanism in Violence and the Sacred. In Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, Girard ultimately argues that the Judeo-Christian tradition unmasks the scapegoat mechanism through sympathizing with the victim and acknowledging the scapegoat's innocence. His deceptively simple work has generated radical and wide-ranging effects on contemporary research across disciplines such as literature, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and theology.

This panel seeks to engage with the conference's theme of "borders" and "borderlands" through an interdisciplinary consideration of Girard's work on communal inclusion and exclusion; mimetic desire; the self, the other, and otherness; our increasingly globalized culture; violence (reciprocal and/or generative violence between individuals and/or societies, countries, sub-cultures, cultures, ethnic groups, gangs, communities, etc.); and the scapegoat, the victim, or victimization. Papers from any field of study are welcome.

With submissions related to literary studies, the panel encourages work that foregrounds compositions and/or authors excluded from or traditionally on the margins of the "Western Canon" to consider how mimetic desire operates in these narratives (with narrative broadly defined to include not only novels, drama, and poetry but also cinema, television, and other media).

Please send abstracts of no longer than 250 words to Grace Stevens at by April 30, 2016. Inquiries about the panel are encouraged.