Posts Tagged ‘Evolution of Desire’

Who was René Girard? Wall Street Journal tries to answer the question.

Friday, June 1st, 2018
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Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard is in the Wall Street Journal weekend edition. The newspaper asks its readers “Who Was René Girard?”  And Marilyn Yalom, a French scholar and officier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, tries to answer. She was the French theorist’s first graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in 1957, and was already at Stanford to greet him when he arrived here in the early 1980s. So she was the perfect person to review Evolution of Desire for the eminent WSJ.  

We couldn’t be more pleased and honored. The Wall Street Journal is the largest newspaper in the nation, with 2.3 million subscribers internationally. You don’t get a bigger audience that that. 

She writes: “Her carefully researched biography is a fitting tribute to her late friend and one that will enlighten both specialists and non-specialists alike.” Well, that’s what I had intended when I wrote the book.

The review is behind a paywall, alas, but here’s an excerpt:

René Girard (1923- 2015) was inducted into the French Academy in 2005. Many of us felt this honor was long overdue, given his international prominence as a French intellectual whose works had crossed the boundaries of literature, history, psychology, sociology, anthropology and religion. Today his theories continue to be debated among “Girardians” on both sides of the Atlantic. He is now the subject of a comprehensive biography by Cynthia Haven called “Evolution of Desire.”

A officier and a gentlewoman…

The title is apt. A key concept in Girard’s philosophy is what he called “mimetic desire.” All desire, he argued, is imitation of another person’s desire. Mimetic desire gives rise to rivalries and violence and eventually to the scapegoating of individuals and groups—a process that unites the community against an outsider and temporarily restores peace. Girard believes that the scapegoat mechanism has been intrinsic to civilization from its beginning to our own time.

My personal acquaintance with René Girard began in 1957, when I entered Johns Hopkins as a graduate student in comparative literature at the same time that he arrived as a professor in the department of Romance languages. With his thick dark hair and leonine head, he was an imposing figure whose brilliance intimidated us all. Yet he proved to be generous and tolerant, even when I announced that I was to have another child—my third in five years of marriage. …

Ms. Haven’s ability to interweave Girard’s life with his publications keeps her narrative flowing at a lively pace. For a man who woke every day at 3:30 a.m. and wrote until his professorial duties took over, it would be enough for any biographer to focus on his intellectual life, without linking his thoughts to a person ambulating in the world. Fortunately, Ms. Haven portrays Girard as he interacted with colleagues, students, friends and family.
 
Read the whole thing here, if you’re able.

“A Company of Authors” is back! An exciting afternoon of lively authors, fascinating books, and “Evolution of Desire”!

Monday, April 16th, 2018
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See the second name from the top on the poster above? That’s Humble Moi. You can call me “Moi” for short. And I am personally inviting you to come to “A Company of Authors,” Prof. Peter Stansky‘s celebration of recent books by Stanford authors at the Stanford Humanities Center – this Saturday, April 21, from 1 to 5:15 p.m. (I know, I know… the poster above says 5 p.m. Keep reading…)

Patrick Hunt at the Stanford Bookstore.

Like the Another Look book club, it’s Stanford’s gift to the community. It’s free, and all members of the community are welcome. I’ve written about previous years here and here and here and here. Usually, I moderate the panel for poets; a few years ago, I gave a pitch for Another Look instead (my comments here), and seven years ago I presented my book, An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czesław Miłosz. This year, I will be attending as an author, discussing my brand-new Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard.

Here’s the thing: you can drop by to hear the twenty-one authors discuss their event (schedule of speakers below or here) at any time during the afternoon, and leave when you wish. Some people stay the whole afternoon. Some people come late. Some people come at the beginning and leave early. Please don’t do that! Gaze at the schedule below. I am the very last speaker. Please, please stay to the very end! Wait and talk to me afterwards! I want to meet you! I want to sign your books! (Oh, and the Stanford Bookstore attends, too, selling all the books at a discount. We want you to buy lots.)

Moreover, the last panel has a terrific team, presenting some memorable characters: Stanford archaeologist Patrick Hunt presenting his new book, Hannibal. And Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin discussing thirteenth-century Leonardo da Pisa, the subject of his Finding Fibonacci: The Quest to Rediscover the Forgotten Mathematical Genius Who Changed the World .  And I will discuss on a very modern hero, Stanford’s René Girard, the French theorist who wrote about human imitation, envy, violence, and scapegoating.

Peter Stansky, author of many volumes on modern British history, assures me that the final spot to anchor the day is a position of honor. So please come see me crowned in glory. I’ll be waiting for you. And I’ve highlighted and hyperlinked some of the other authors who have been featured in these pages on the schedule below (please note: Steve Zipperstein has had to cancel his attendance).

Marilyn Yalom signing books

Now you will ask why does the poster that was used in publicity list the event as ending  at 5 p.m., yet the schedule below ends at 5:05 p.m., and elsewhere it says 5:15 p.m. That’s because we noticed that the last panel was five minutes short, and that means we’d all be talking awfully, awfully fast. So the panel ends at 5:05. But after that, we expect you’ll all want to head into the lobby, drink more tea and eat more cookies, buy more books, and many of the authors will be chatting and lingering and longing to sign your books till 5:15 or so. In fact, the hubbub and conversation in the lobby after it’s all finished is one of the funnest things of all.

Come when you can. Stay as long as you can. It’s always lively, informative, and thought-provoking.

SCHEDULE

1:00 pm Welcome (Peter Stansky)

1:05 pm – 1:35 pm The Wide Range of History
Peter Stansky, Chair
Nancy Kollmann, The Russian Empire 1450–1801
Mikael D. Wolfe, Watering the Revolution: An Environmental and Technological History of Agrarian Reform in Mexico
Thomas S. Mullaney, The Chinese Typewriter: A History

1:40 pm – 2:10 pm Killing and Controlling the Population
Paul Robinson, Chair
Carolyn Chappell Lougee, Facing the Revocation
Philippa Levine, Eugenics

2:15 pm – 2:45 pm Considering Life
Tania Granoff, Chair
Peter N. CarrollAn Elegy for Lovers
Irvin D. YalomBecoming Myself: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir

2:50 pm – 3:20 pm Life and Love
Edith Gelles, Chair
Aiko Takeuchi-Demirci, Contraceptive Diplomacy
Karen Offen, The Woman Question in France, 1400–1870
Marilyn YalomThe Amorous Heart: An Unconventional History of Love

3:25 pm – 3:55 pm The Former British Empire
Kristin Mann, Chair
Jack RakoveA Politician Thinking: The Creative Mind of James Madison
Priya Satia, Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution
Aidan Forth, Barbed-Wire Imperialism: Britain’s Empire of Camps, 1876–1903

4:00 pm – 4:30 pm The Many Worlds of Stanford
Larry Horton, Chair

4:00 pm – 4:30 pm The Many Worlds of Stanford
Larry Horton, Chair
Tom DeMund, Walking the Farm
Peter Stansky et al., The Stanford Senate of the Academic Council
Robin Kennedy on behalf of Donald Kennedy, A Place in the Sun: A Memoir

4:35 pm – 5:05 pm Rich Lives
Charles Junkerman, Chair
Patrick HuntHannibal
Keith Devlin, Finding Fibonacci
Cynthia Haven, Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard

This event is co-sponsored by Stanford Continuing Studies and the Stanford Humanities Center, with special thanks to the Stanford Bookstore.