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Fictional Environments
Mimesis, Deforestation, and Development in Latin America
Victoria Saramago
Northwestern University Press, 2021

Finalist, 2022 ASLE Ecocritical Book Award

Fictional Environments: Mimesis, Deforestation, and Development in Latin America investigates how fictional works have become sites for the production of knowledge, imagination, and intervention in Latin American environments. It investigates the dynamic relationship between fictional images and real places, as the lasting representations of forests, rural areas, and deserts in novels clash with collective perceptions of changes like deforestation and urbanization.

From the backlands of Brazil to a developing Rio de Janeiro, and from the rainforests of Venezuela and Peru to the Mexican countryside, rapid deforestation took place in Latin America in the second half of the twentieth century. How do fictional works and other cultural objects dramatize, resist, and intervene in these ecological transformations? Through analyses of work by João Guimarães Rosa, Alejo Carpentier, Juan Rulfo, Clarice Lispector, and Mario Vargas Llosa, Victoria Saramago shows how novels have inspired conservationist initiatives and offered counterpoints to developmentalist policies, and how environmental concerns have informed the agendas of novelists as essayists, politicians, and public intellectuals. This book seeks to understand the role of literary representation, or mimesis, in shaping, sustaining, and negotiating environmental imaginaries during the deep, ongoing transformations that have taken place from the 1950s to the present.


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The Function of Mimesis and Its Decline
John D. S.J.Boyd
Harvard University Press

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Intellectual Sacrifice and Other Mimetic Paradoxes
Paolo Diego Bubbio
Michigan State University Press, 2018
Intellectual Sacrifice and Other Mimetic Paradoxes is an account of Paolo Diego Bubbio’s twenty-year intellectual journey through the twists and turns of Girard’s mimetic theory. The author analyzes philosophy and religion as “enemy sisters” engaged in an endless competitive struggle and identifies the intellectual space where this rivalry can either be perpetuated or come to a paradoxical resolution. He goes on to explore topics ranging from arguments for the existence of God to mimetic theory’s post-Kantian legacy, political implications, and capacity for identifying epochal phenomena, such as the crisis of the self, in popular culture. Bubbio concludes by advocating for an encounter between mimetic theory and contemporary philosophical hermeneutics—an encounter in which each approach benefits and is enriched by the resources of the other. The volume features a previously unpublished letter by René Girard on the relationship between philosophy and religion.

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Mimesis and Science
Empirical Research on Imitation and the Mimetic Theory of Culture and Religion
Scott R. Garrels
Michigan State University Press, 2011

This exciting compendium brings together, for the first time, some of the foremost scholars of René Girard’s mimetic theory, with leading imitation researchers from the cognitive, developmental, and neuro sciences. These chapters explore some of the major discoveries and developments concerning the foundational, yet previously overlooked, role of imitation in human life, revealing the unique theoretical links that can now be made from the neural basis of social interaction to the structure and evolution of human culture and religion. Together, mimetic scholars and imitation researchers are on the cutting edge of some of the most important breakthroughs in understanding the distinctive human capacity for both incredible acts of empathy and compassion as well as mass antipathy and violence. As a result, this interdisciplinary volume promises to help shed light on some of the most pressing and complex questions of our contemporary world.


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Mimesis and the Human Animal
On the Biogenetic Foundations of Literary Representation
Robert Storey
Northwestern University Press, 1996
In Mimesis and the Human Animal, Robert Storey argues that human culture derives from human biology and that literary representation therefore must have a biological basis. As he ponders the question "What does it mean to say that art imitates life?" he must consider both "What is life?" and "What is art?"

A unique approach to the subject of mimesis, Storey's book goes beyond the politicizing of literature grounded in literary theory to develop a scientific basis for the creation of literature and art.

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Mimesis as Make-Believe
On the Foundations of the Representational Arts
Kendall L. Walton
Harvard University Press, 1993

Representations—in visual arts and in fiction—play an important part in our lives and culture. Kendall Walton presents here a theory of the nature of representation, which illuminates its many varieties and goes a long way toward explaining its importance. Drawing analogies to children’s make believe activities, Walton constructs a theory that addresses a broad range of issues: the distinction between fiction and nonfiction, how depiction differs from description, the notion of points of view in the arts, and what it means for one work to be more “realistic” than another. He explores the relation between appreciation and criticism, the character of emotional reactions to literary and visual representations, and what it means to be caught up emotionally in imaginary events.

Walton’s theory also provides solutions to the thorny philosophical problems of the existence—or ontological standing—of fictitious beings, and the meaning of statements referring to them. And it leads to striking insights concerning imagination, dreams, nonliteral uses of language, and the status of legends and myths.

Throughout Walton applies his theoretical perspective to particular cases; his analysis is illustrated by a rich array of examples drawn from literature, painting, sculpture, theater, and film. Mimesis as Make-Believe is important reading for everyone interested in the workings of representational art.


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Mimesis, Desire, and the Novel
Rene Girard and Literary Criticism
Pierpaolo Antonello
Michigan State University Press, 2015
Fifty years after its publication in English, René Girard’s Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (1965) has never ceased to fascinate, challenge, inspire, and sometimes irritate, literary scholars. It has become one of the great classics of literary criticism, and the notion of triangular desire is now part of the theoretical parlance among critics and students. It also represents the genetic starting point for what has become one of the most encompassing, challenging, and far-reaching theories conceived in the humanities in the last century: mimetic theory. This book provides a forum for new generations of scholars and critics to reassess, challenge, and expand the theoretical and hermeneutical reach of key issues brought forward by Girard’s book, including literary knowledge, realism and representation, imitation and the anxiety of influence, metaphysical desire, deviated transcendence, literature and religious experience, individualism and modernity, and death and resurrection. It also provides a more extensive and detailed historical understanding of the representation of desire, imitation, and rivalry within European and world literature, from Dante to Proust and from Dickens to Jonathan Littell.

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Mimesis, Masochism, and Mime
The Politics of Theatricality in Contemporary French Thought
Timothy Murray, Editor
University of Michigan Press, 1997
In the first collection of its kind, Timothy Murray brings together writing by leading French thinkers on the political effects of theatricality on theater, film, literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. In addition to recently translated work by Cixous and Deleuze, the collection features English translations of essays by Althusser, Derrida, Durand, Fanon, Féral, Foucault, Girard, Green, Irigaray, Kristeva, Lacoue-Labarthe, Lyotard, and Marin.
Mimesis, Masochism, & Mime provides a welcome theoretical contribution to recent theories of performance and to the development of French cultural studies. Its emphasis on the politics of theatricality lends unprecedented focus to French theorizations of the body, gender, sight, screen, voice, territoriality, otherness, and diversity. In so doing, the volume provides an intellectual context and theoretical blueprint for future work in the cultural study of mimesis, masochism, and mime. The collection highlights the importance of theatricality to the theory and practice of aesthetics as well as to French debates over patriarchy, absolutism, and metaphysics. In turn, wide-ranging analyses provide a range of approaches to the politics of identity, feminism, marginality, and postcoloniality. Timothy Murray's introduction makes clear the theoretical context of the volume, and situates the book in relation to recent Anglo-American debates over realism, multiculturalism, and identity politics.
The contributors are especially helpful in linking varying political accounts of ideology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis to historical and contemporary work in performance, film, and video. Astute commentaries on Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Artaud are combined with fascinating analyses of more recent mixed-media performance, from the European stage (Duras, Théâtre du Soleil, Bene, and Strehler), to the site of North American performance (Snow, Mabou Mines, Wilson, and Rainer).
Mimesis, Masochism, & Mime provides a stunning account of the political importance of theatricality to contemporary French thought and will be welcomed by readers in French studies, theory, theater, cultural studies, film, women's studies, aesthetics, and psychoanalysis.
"The essays . . .are judiciously chosen, accurately justified, wide in range within the dispensation of post-structuralist thought--that is, they touch on everything from the question of origins to the libidinal economy of performance to post- Brechtian staging to the ineliminable shadow play of tragedy through its ideological demystification by schizoanalysis to feminism in the theater." --Herbert Blau, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Timothy Murray is Professor of English at Cornell University and former Editor of Theatre Journal. He is the author of Theatrical Legitimation: Allegories of Genius in Seventeenth-Century England and France and Like a Film: Ideological Fantasy on Screen, Camera, and Canvas.

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The New Real
Media and Mimesis in Japan from Stereographs to Emoji
Jonathan E. Abel
University of Minnesota Press, 2022

Unlocking a vital understanding of how literary studies and media studies overlap and are bound together

A synthetic history of new media reception in modern and contemporary Japan, The New Real positions mimesis at the heart of the media concept. Considering both mimicry and representation as the core functions of mediation and remediation, Jonathan E. Abel offers a new model for media studies while explaining the deep and ongoing imbrication of Japan in the history of new media.

From stereoscopy in the late nineteenth century to emoji at the dawn of the twenty-first, Abel presents a pioneering history of new media reception in Japan across the analog and digital divide. He argues that there are two realities created by new media: one marketed to us through advertising that proclaims better, faster, and higher-resolution connections to the real; and the other experienced by users whose daily lives and behaviors are subtly transformed by the presence and penetration of the content carried through new media. Intervening in contemporary conversations about virtuality, copyright, copycat violence, and social media, each chapter unfolds with a focus on a single medium or technology, including 3D photographs, the phonograph, television, videogames, and emoji.

By highlighting the tendency of the mediated to copy the world and the world to copy the mediated, The New Real provides a new path for analysis of media, culture, and their function in the world.


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The Phantom of the Ego
Modernism and the Mimetic Unconscious
Nidesh Lawtoo
Michigan State University Press, 2013

The Phantom of the Ego is the first comparative study that shows how the modernist account of the unconscious anticipates contemporary discoveries about the importance of mimesis in the formation of subjectivity. Rather than beginning with Sigmund Freud as the father of modernism, Nidesh Lawtoo starts with Friedrich Nietzsche’s antimetaphysical diagnostic of the ego, his realization that mimetic reflexes—from sympathy to hypnosis, to contagion, to crowd behavior—move the soul, and his insistence that psychology informs philosophical reflection. Through a transdisciplinary, comparative reading of landmark modernist authors like Nietzsche, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, and Georges Bataille, Lawtoo shows that, before being a timely empirical discovery, the “mimetic unconscious” emerged from an untimely current in literary and philosophical modernism. This book traces the psychological, ethical, political, and cultural implications of the realization that the modern ego is born out of the spirit of imitation; it is thus, strictly speaking, not an ego, but what Nietzsche calls, “a phantom of the ego.” The Phantom of the Ego opens up a Nietzschean back door to the unconscious that has mimesis rather than dreams as its via regia, and argues that the modernist account of the “mimetic unconscious” makes our understanding of the psyche new.


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Playing Real
Mimesis, Media, and Mischief
Lindsay Brandon Hunter
Northwestern University Press, 2021

Playing Real: Mimesis, Media, and Mischief explores the integration and interaction of mimetic theatricality and representational media in twentieth- and twenty‑first-century performance. It brings together carefully chosen sites of performance—including live broadcasts of theatrical productions, reality television, and alternate-reality gaming—in which mediatization and mimesis compete and collude to represent the real to audiences. Lindsay Brandon Hunter reads such performances as forcing confrontation between notions of authenticity, sincerity, and spontaneity and their various others: the fake, the feigned, the staged, or the rehearsed.

Each site examined in Playing Real purports to show audiences something real—real theater, real housewives, real alternative scenarios—which is simultaneously visible as overtly constructed, adulterated by artifice and artificiality. The integration of mediatization and theatricality in these performances, Hunter argues, exploits the proclivities of both to conjure the real even as they risk corrupting the perception of authenticity by imbricating it with artifice and overt manipulation.

Although the performances analyzed obscure boundaries separating actual from virtual, genuine from artificial, and truth from fiction, Hunter rejects the notion that these productions imperil the “real.” She insists on uncertainty as a fertile site for productive and pleasurable mischief—including relationships to realness and authenticity among both audience and participants.


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A Refuge of Lies
Reflections on Faith and Fiction
Cesareo Bandera
Michigan State University Press, 2013

Erich Auerbach’s seminal Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature was published more than sixty years ago and is deservedly considered a classic. The book brought into focus the fundamental difference that exists between the two basic approaches to the textual representation of reality in Western culture. These two “styles,” as Auerbach called them, were archetypically displayed in Homer’s poems and in the Old Testament, respectively. Auerbach’s differentiation is the starting point for Bandera’s insightful work, which expands and develops on this theory in several key ways. One of the more significant differences between the two styles transcends and grounds all the others. It concerns the truth of each of the two archetypal texts, or rather, the attitude exhibited in those texts with regard to the truth of what they narrate. Auerbach, Bandera notes, is amazed at the Bible’s “passionate” concern for the truth of what it says—a concern he found absent in Homer. Bandera finds that what the prophet Isaiah called “a refuge of lies” defines Homer’s work. He draws on his own research and René Girard’s theory of the sacred to develop an enhanced perspective of the relationship between these texts.


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Shakespearean Cultures
Latin America and the Challenges of Mimesis in Non-Hegemonic Circumstances
João Cezar de Castro Rocha
Michigan State University Press, 2019
In Shakespearean Cultures, René Girard’s ideas on violence and the sacred inform an innovative analysis of contemporary Latin America. Castro Rocha proposes a new theoretical framework based upon the “poetics of emulation” and offers a groundbreaking approach to understanding the asymmetries of the modern world. Shakespearean cultures are those whose self-perception originates in the gaze of a hegemonic Other. The poetics of emulation is a strategy developed in situations of asymmetrical power relations. This strategy encompasses an array of procedures employed by artists, intellectuals, and writers situated at the less-favored side of such exchanges, whether they be cultural, political, or economic in nature. The framework developed in this book yields thought-provoking readings of canonical authors such as William Shakespeare, Gustave Flaubert, and Joseph Conrad. At the same time, it favors the insertion of Latin American authors into the comparative scope of world literature, and stages an unprecedented dialogue among European, North American, and Latin American readers of René Girard’s work. 

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Too Beautiful to Picture
Zeuxis, Myth, and Mimesis
Elizabeth C. Mansfield
University of Minnesota Press, 2007
Few tales of artistic triumph can rival the story of Zeuxis. As first reported by Cicero and Pliny, the painter Zeuxis set out to portray Helen of Troy, but when he realized that a single model could not match Helen’s beauty, he combined the best features of five different models. A primer on mimesis in art making, the Zeuxis myth also illustrates ambivalence about the ability to rely on nature as a model for ideal form.In Too Beautiful to Picture, Elizabeth C. Mansfield engages the visual arts, literature, and performance to examine the desire to make the ideal visible. She finds in the Zeuxis myth evidence of a cultural primal scene that manifests itself in gendered terms. Mansfield considers the many depictions of the legend during the Renaissance and questions its absence during the eighteenth century. Offering interpretations of Angelica Kauffman’s paintings, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Mansfield also considers Orlan’s carnal art as a profound retelling of the myth. Throughout, Mansfield asserts that the Zeuxis legend encodes an unconscious record of the West’s reliance on mimetic representation as a vehicle for metaphysical solace.Elizabeth C. Mansfield is associate professor of art history at the University of the South.

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Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe
Harvard University Press, 1989

The relationships between philosophy and aesthetics and between philosophy and politics are especially pressing issues today. Those who explore these themes will applaud the publication—for the first time in English—of this important collection, one that reveals the scope and force of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s reflections on mimesis, subjectivity, and representation in philosophical thought.

This coherent and rigorous body of work reflects the author’s complex and subtle treatment of mimesis in the history of philosophy from Plato to Heidegger. It contains close critical analyses of works by Plato, Diderot, Hölderlin, Reik, Girard, and Heidegger, and moves through topics such as music, autobiography, tragedy, and the problem of historical and political self-definition.

Because Lacoue-Labarthe deals with issues that cross disciplinary lines, his work will appeal to readers interested in philosophy as it relates to politics, history, and aesthetics, especially literature. By showing that the concept of mimesis is an integral part of philosophical reasoning, he provides a challenging approach to many of Heidegger’s ideas, and contributes to the poststructuralist (or postmodem) attempt to rethink the notions of reference and representation. This approach challenges readers to redefine their understanding of history and politics.

One of the most gifted and active of the younger French philosophers, Lacoue-Labarthe is a respected peer of Jacques Derrida, who has provided an extensive introduction to the book especially for American readers. Those who are familiar with Derrida’s writings will appreciate the opportunity to see his questions approached in an entirely different style by Lacoue-Labarthe, resulting in productive new insights.


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Violence and the Oedipal Unconscious
vol. 1, The Catharsis Hypothesis
Nidesh Lawtoo
Michigan State University Press, 2023
Representations of violence are often said to generate cathartic effects, but what does “catharsis” mean? And what theory of the unconscious made this concept so popular that it reaches from classical antiquity to the digital age? In Violence and the Oedipal Unconscious, Nidesh Lawtoo reframes current debates on (new) media violence by tracing the philosophical, aesthetic, and historical vicissitudes of the “catharsis hypothesis” from antiquity to modernity and into the present. Drawing on theorists of mimesis from Aristotle to Nietzsche, Bernays to Breuer, Freud to Girard to Morin, Lawtoo offers a genealogy of the relationship between violence and the unconscious with at least two aims: First, this study gives an account of the birth of the Oedipal unconscious—out of a “cathartic method.” Second, it provides new theoretical foundations to solve a riddle of (new) media violence that may no longer rest on Oedipal solutions. In the process, Lawtoo outlines a new theory of violence, mimesis, and the unconscious that does not have desire as a via regia, but rather, the untimely realization that all affects spread contagiously and thus mimetically.

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