René Girard Violence and Mimesis
Chris Fleming
Malden: Polity Press 2004
164 pages with notes, bibliography and index

Prior to this appearance of this book, Richard Golson’s Rene Girard and Myth stood as the leading contender for introductions to Girard’s mimetic theory. This book does not replace the excellent work of Golson but is a more subtle introduction in that Fleming explicates each of the stages of the mimetic theory within the context of current literary, philosophical and anthropological studies. The brief biographical introduction of Girard is rare for a work in English but much appreciated.

It is difficult to find flaws in Fleming’s analysis of mimetic theory. Like most authors, Fleming approaches the question beginning with mimesis and rivalry, moving to the question of myth and history and finally asking about the relation of the Bible to mimetic theory and the continuing role of Scripture as it speaks to the humanities. There is nothing new here. But mimetic theory does not depend upon novelty, and Fleming does not make stuff up as he goes along, he sticks closely to the Girardian corpus and each chapter is filled with copious references to Girard’s oeuvre.

Fleming is concerned to interpret Girard by Girard, using interviews and essays to flesh out what Girard has said in his major works. One might get the impression that Fleming is quite taken with Girard and does not obtain critical distance, but his scholarship runs both broad and deep and it would appear that Fleming has made a case for the extraordinary power and heuristic potential of mimetic theory. Fleming does not shy away from the tough anthropological or literary questions that mimetic theory raises, tackling them and their proponents each in his or her own turn without rancor and with a wry wit. This book is a must for every student of Rene Girard and mimetic theory.