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The Scapegoat by [Girard, René, Freccero, Yvonne]
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The Scapegoat Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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"[Girard's] methods of extrapolating to find cultural history behind myths, and of reading hidden verification through silence, are worthy enrichments of the critic's arsenal." -- John Yoder, Religion and Literature

"ÝGirard's¨ methods of extrapolating to find cultural history behind myths, and of reading hidden verification through silence, are worthy enrichments of the critic's arsenal." -- John Yoder, Religion and Literature

"[Girard's] methods of extrapolating to find cultural history behind myths, and of reading hidden verification through silence, are worthy enrichments of the critic's arsenal." -- John Yoder, Religion and Literature

[Girard's] methods of extrapolating to find cultural history behind myths, and of reading hidden verification through silence, are worthy enrichments of the critic's arsenal.--John Yoder "Religion and Literature "


A study of the relationship between violence and ritual from antiquity to the modern age.

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 657 KB
  • Print Length: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (8 Jan. 1989)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003TO5LF8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #342,977 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is an incredible and important book. Girard's thesis is controversial and unique: that Western history and culture, which originates in mob violence, is a repeated manifestation of the scapegoat mechanism; that what we call 'myths' ought to be read historically as 'persecution texts' (in short, that Oedipus is a kind of Jew); and that Christianity reveals the scapegoat mechanism upon which other texts secretly function. This thesis is both remarkably ambitious and surprisingly well-argued. Girard and his translator write clearly, simply, and persuasively; and for a book with such a wide-ranging thesis, also concisely. I cannot agree with Girard, but for any student of culture who wishes to stretch their mind and uncover a new attitude to the humanities - indeed, Girard is unrelentingly critical of other fields, and movingly and shockingly polemical in his powerful final paragraph - this is absolutely a must-read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x908377ec) out of 5 stars 18 reviews
95 of 96 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90b9b9b4) out of 5 stars An interesting and important book 29 Dec. 2000
By Michel Aaij - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is seminal book of Girard's. In his investigation of myth he uncovers what he calls the scapegoat-mechanism, the tendency of society to collectively transfer guilt onto a sacrificial victim.
An introductory chapter on fourteenth century European anti-semitism leads into a discussion of various myths from around the world, all "texts of persecution." Girard's thesis, that basically all founding myths feature the sacrifice of an innocent victim, proceeds in good structuralist fashion: these tendencies are an innate part of human nature.
But he doesn't stop there. Taking a somewhat eschatological stance, midway through the book he continues to tackle what he calls the ultimate uncovering of the scapegoat mechanism: the death of Christ. His argument is, roughly, that Christ in his words and deeds, and finally in his self-sacrifice, demonstrates how he understands this inborn but not irredeemable human characteristic. The rest of human history thus unfolds towards a greater understanding (and Girard's work is part of this) of the irrationality of sacrifice--slowly we start to fulfill the promise of our humanity, and work towards a society in which no sacrifice will have to be made.
The most gripping chapter for me is that on Peter's betrayal. This is a truly remarkable reading of the wellknown biblical narrative, a reading that simultaneously redeems Peter (somewhat) and condemns all of humanity. Jesus, the ultimate innocent victim, understood this, as does Girard: if Peter fails, we all fail.
Since I am not a student of myth I feel I can't comment on Girard's reading of myths, most of which I hadn't heard of before, but it certainly sounds convincing. Especially his reading of the bible makes this book worthwhile to students of language, literature, social sciences, and morality.
70 of 77 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90b9ba08) out of 5 stars A Rough Path Through an Extraordinary Landscape. 19 Mar. 2002
By David Marshall - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio Cassette
Rene Girard proposes to change how we think about religion and history. To do so, he takes us through history, mythology, and the New Testament, pointing out facts we may not have noticed about group violence and how it justifies itself, and the way Jesus "subverts the dominant paradigm," as they say. Like a geologist pointing to a piece of land we have walked across since childhood, and explaining Plate Tectonics and the volcanic origins of familiar landmarks, the ground seems to shift under our feet as we look at familiar facts from these new points of view.
No doubt Girard gets carried away, and tries to explain too much. Simplicity is the curse of great intellects -- Marx thought love of money was the root of all motivation, Freud over-emphasized sex, and Ernest Becker proposed to explain all human neurosis in terms of fear of death. Similarly, Girard claims: "All human language, and other cultural institutions, in fact, originated in collective murder." All?
Perhaps Girard is mocking the positivists with his method. He gives a paltry handful of examples, links them together in the most tenuous way, and tells us he's "proven" the enormous sweep of his claims. I sympathize with the minimilist approach from an artistic standpoint, but I'm going to have to think through the data for a while to see if it really fits. Based on what I know of Chinese history, for example, I think the theory Girard gives in this book may have definite explanatory value. Last emperors of prior dynasties are usually depicted as villains, and the founders of new dynasties, who generally have blood on their hands, are justified, as part of Girard's theory predicts. But I doubt even his full theory will fit everything.
Girard seems to know what he's talking about, but sometimes he forgets to explain it adequately to his readers. He occasionally blunders into sentences like this: "Is it enough to justify our qualifying the interpretation that subverts the representation of persecution by revealing it as scientific?" Uh. . . No!
For all the book's occasional faults, however, I find it changing the way I see society. Consider, for example, what the experts have been telling us about Islam for the last few months, and the realities of what Mohammed actually did, in light of the following sentence: "Human culture is predisposed to the permanent concealment of its origins in collective violence." This is exactly what politicians, scholars, and the press have been doing in regard to early Islam.
The way in which Girard explains the phenomena of scapegoating also casts a great deal of light, it seems to me, on the extreme hostility manifest not only in the Muslim world, but even in the West, towards the state of Israel, recently. The Muslim world is in a turmoil, and the Jews have been set up, as so often before, as the scapegoats -- as Girard's theory predicts.
Girard depicts evil as a second-rate, taudry, and cowardly thing, and shows true heroism in all its beauty. His discussion of the Gospels and history is especially good. (In my book, Jesus and the Religions of Man, I describe other scapegoat phenomena from around the world, and relate them in a different but perhaps complementary way to the Gospels.)
The Scapegoat is, in short, well worth attention. While some of Girard's ideas may be out to lunch, he certainly offers insights here of real and paradigm-shifting value about the nature of man and the work of Christ.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90b8ce28) out of 5 stars Compelling insights into religioius & social practices 12 Dec. 2008
By ecclesial hypostasis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an ambitious work. Girard tries simultaneously to demystify religious rituals and myths, take down some of the political correctness in ethnological study, and provide hope for freedom from collective violence through the message of the Gospels. I appreciate his deep insight into reading the 'texts' of myth and ritual through cultural and psychological imperatives. Society is stabilised by controlled violence, it can't be denied. He does tend to over-apply his theory, though, and makes it seem as though he believes that the entire world of religious thought and practice is rooted in collective violence, which is simplistic. Also, his readings of the Gospels, while perceptive and challenging, seem to lack a wider theological insight.
This is the book that the 'God Delusion' should have been and wasn't. Read it and be continually looking at your own life for the scapegoats you and your social groups use.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90b9bc90) out of 5 stars Best introduction to Girard's work 12 Nov. 2009
By Paul J. Nuechterlein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Girard takes a different starting point than his other books, a mid-fourteenth century "text of persecution," to unravel his theory of myths and then to show how biblical texts demythologize the mythical viewpoint; roughly, one-half theory of myth and one-half biblical commentary. This is the book by Girard that I would recommend as best for an introduction. I think that it gives the best entry into his work as a scientific anthropology and then makes the transition to many of his most important biblical insights.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90b9bed0) out of 5 stars One of the most important works for the twentieth century 29 May 2012
By Jared White - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the Scapegoat, Girard further expounds on his thesis developed in Violence and the Sacred that religion, culture, and violence are inextricably linked. In the Scapegoat Girard demonstrates how underlying all myths are stories of persecution and collective violence. We were not able to unlock these texts until recently because we have successfully learned to interpret historic persecution texts, deciphering truth from lie. When the same structural analysis is used to looks at myths, as is used to interpret historic persecutions texts, we come across a startling revelation. Taken further, Girard shows how collective persecution and what he called the mimetic theory of desire are related to Christianity and the ground shattering event - Jesus' death and resurrection. This is a must read for historians, anthropologist, theologians, and any lay person who wants to better understand Christianity's importance to the world.
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