Volume 24, Issue 1, Spring 2019
Thinking with René Girard
Historian in Disguise
On Derrida, Durkheim and the Intellectual Ambition of Rene Girard
This paper rereads René Girard’s intellectual biography as a process first of apparent dissociation, and then of not so very much apparent, though quite solid, recovery of historical thinking. A trained historian-archivist, the young Girard began to massively rearrange his intellectual outlook by adopting methods and perspectives drawn from both very modern thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, and classical thinkers such as Émile Durkheim. In developing his signature theory of the scapegoat mechanism, however, Girard’s intellectual biography eventually came full circle. Reluctantly, and sometimes probably even unconsciously, he began to work intellectually like a good historian. Historical methodology and mimetic theory have, therefore, very much in common. This usually overlooked close relationship would seem to offer a promising new perspective when it comes to further developing mimetic theory methodologically.