Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Girard’s Scapegoat: Announcement

Posted by Robert C. on June 21, 2007

Cheryl has agreed to help us work through Rene Girard’s The Scapegoat. I just got through ordering my copy, so I figure we could start a sort of book-group discussion of this book in a couple of weeks. I expect the posts will be written in such a way that you can follow along even if you don’t have the book, but of course you’ll surely get much more out of these posts if you order the book and read along with us.

If you missed this comment by Cheryl sketching a Girardian reading of Matthew 24 (JST), it’s not to be missed. I think Cheryl’s comment also provides a good introduction to Girard’s ideas, and how they can be used to help us think about scripture. Feel free to use this post to discuss either Cheryl’s comment on Matthew 24, or the proposed project, or Girardian ideas (incl. violence in scripture quite broadly).

I’m sort of counting on Cheryl and Joe Spencer to help me take turns writing posts discussing the book—if anyone else would like to help, I think a couple more “discussion leaders” would be nice. It looks like there are 15 chapters at about 10-20 pages per chapter, so I’m thinking a chapter a week sounds about right, what do you think?

24 Responses to “Girard’s Scapegoat: Announcement”

  1. nhilton said

    I just ordered the book. Thanks Robert & Cheryle. This sounds fun. I hope I can keep up with your reading schedule in view of my work deadlines & family…but I’ll try. I’m wondering if 10-20 pages per week is do-able (for me?) if it’s heavy reading–the kind where you re-read each sentence & then just sit & think about it…& then look up all the references it’s citing…and then read them all…and then return to the original book from which you started. (Kinda like “If you Give a Pig A Pancake.”) I’d prefer that pace cut in half…but that’s just ME speaking. :)

  2. Ordered. You know I’ll help write posts, etc.

  3. robf said

    OK, just ordered mine. I’m in. Hope it doesn’t cut to deeply into my scripture reading time :)

  4. Robert C. said

    robf #3, and others: Looking at the Table of Contents headings, it seems that the second half of the book is a discussion of New Testament passages, so I’m counting this as part of my scripture study time…. (I say this in an effort to help others rationalize joining in!)

  5. brianj said

    This looks like a great idea, but I’ll have to be a lurker. I’m still trying to catch up to be able to join in the Mosiah 15 discussion, not to mention prepare my Sunday School lessons each week. (I don’t mean to be a wet blanket, but since you implicitly asked for a show of hands….)

  6. Brian,

    Ask your bishop if he wouldn’t mind you teaching alternating lessons on Mosiah 15 and Girard’s scapegoating theory for a couple of months. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. :)

  7. cherylem said

    I looked at my copy of The Scapegoat today; I think you will find it readable and provocative. I would like to say that probably I won’t need to help anyone work through this as much as we will work through it together. It’s been several years – probably ten – since I’ve read this book.

    I also want to say that those of you who are philosophers (and probably everyone else) will soon outstrip my understanding of Girard’s work. However, I do think it important to say at the outset that no Girardian thinker that I know of, least of all Girard himself, would say that this work is “finished.” The purpose of COV&R (Colloquium on Violence and Religion) for instance, is to continually build on Girard’s ideas and insights, recognizing that there is much work to be done in this area.

    Nevertheless, I would stake a small fortune that those of us who work through this book will never read scripture the same way again, will never see human relationships in the same way again.

    So I’m excited to start this project.

    Regarding my reading of JS-1 Matthew 24: I actually think what I did is . . . well, it’s not great. It really is just a preliminary sketch, which Robert thankfully named it.

    And I really hope that DT will continue to comment, and perhaps read with us.

  8. nhilton said

    Cheryle, “those of us who work through this book will never read scripture the same way again, will never see human relationships in the same way again.” Great sales pitch! Who could resit being changed forever!

  9. nhilton said

    I got my copy today! When do we begin?

  10. Robert C. said

    nhilton, me too! I’m working on a draft reading schedule, probably about 12 pages a week.

    Also, I’m wondering if we might not be better off moving this project to another venue since the first half of the book isn’t very focused on scripture. That is, I think it would stretch the stated purpose and focus of this blog (perhaps falling under the category of “how to study,” but rather loosely…). I think Jim F.’s recent comment makes a good point, that there’s a lot of value in maintaining a rather narrow focus on scripture (and teaching thereof) here.

  11. nhilton said

    Robert, re: the purpose of this blog, I think this “book group” fits the purpose of study/teaching nicely. I have learned a lot in HOW to question a text by participating on this blog. Doing such with another book would probably be another good exercise in exegesis. Being a student is as important as being a teacher so perhaps it would be appropriate to use this book as a test to our “student” skills and cyber-classroom interaction.

  12. Jim F. said

    I think that nhilton is right: reading Girard is a good exercise in learning to read. Of course that applies directly to scripture study, but Girard has the added advantage of talking about scripture in ways that most of us are unfamiliar with. Encountering someone who takes scripture seriously and yet sees it differently than we do is one way to learn to ask better questions about what we read.

    I wish I had the time to join the reading group, but I will be lurking to learn.

  13. Got my copy!

  14. Robert C. said

    OK, I got the lds-herm blog up and running with a preliminary post about Girard. There is tab at the top that provides the reading schedule—we will be starting not next week but the following week (July 15th). Again, all are welcome to join in the discussion, even if you aren’t able to follow along in the readings.

  15. Rebecca L said

    I just got back from an extended trip and was excited to see what a great thing you all have underway! I’ll be learning from the sidelines!


  16. nhilton said

    So, when is our first “book club” discussion?

    I’ve read the first chapter & wonder if it would help me to actually read Guillaume de Machaut’s poem, if it is translated into English, or not. I think I got the gist of the chapter but see it as more of an introduction to the rest of the book, than anything else. Would someone like to summarize the point of the chapter for me in one sentence?

  17. Nanette: http://www.ldsherm.wordpress.com

    I posted on the first chapter today.

  18. Robert C. said

    Though I’m not sure how much Joe’s post will help you understand the chapter ;-). I’ll try to get to the reading soon, and then make sense of Joe’s post, and then perhaps we can work on thinking about understanding Girard’s main point of the first chapter (by proposing one-sentence-like statements of his thesis—surely Joe will protest such a reductionistic exercise, but I think it’s helpful in understanding to try and formulate certain main currents of thought in concise ways…).

  19. If I might offer a word in my defense… :)

    I begin my post by pointing to two short sentences in chapter 1 that I think sum up Girard’s point in the chapter.

  20. cherylem said

    Joe’s first chapter notes are great when read side by side with the chapter. Girard is not easy (though sometimes he appears more so than he is.) Joe already “gets” some things there that would be missed by those of us without a continental philosophical background.

    Robert, I’m looking forward to more of your thoughts after reading chapter 1 (I know you hoped to listen/read). NHilton, please dive in. I sense some of this might be new to you . . . don’t be intimidated. Just speak what you want to and we’ll go from there.

    And I hope we get some other readers/lurkers on the Girard blog site. Stick with it. All of it will make more sense as we continue.

  21. nhilton said

    Cherylem, #20, you reference the “Girard blog site.” Is this it? I hoped you’d post something per chapter that would be in the current postings column so we’d get input. This is in contrast to going to another blog…or did someone already decide to post elsewhere for this “book club?”

  22. cherylem said

    I wondered where you were regarding Girard! I’m sorry this has been confusing – if you look on the left of the FEAST UPON THE WORD site toward the top you’ll see something labeled BLOGROLL. Click on the only thing there: LDS-herm blog. The Girard discussion is there.

    I’m so sorry you haven’t known this.

  23. Robert C. said

    nhilton, sorry, I should’ve made this more clear. In talking with others and looking at the first few chapters of the book, it just didn’t seem like posting the Girard discussion here would be appropriate, so we moved the discussion to the lds-herm blog. We’ve only covered 2 chapters so far and will be working on chapter 3 this week. Again, sorry, I thought you simply felt the discussion there was too abstract (it hass been pretty abstract…)!

  24. cherylem said

    Robert did explain this in #14 above . . . and Joe mentioned his first post in #17.

    In any event, please come to the discussion now, nhilton. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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