Examples of mimesis in literature
René Girards Mimetic Theory by Wolfgang PalaverA systematic introduction into the mimetic theory of the French-American literary theorist and philosophical anthropologist René Girard, this essential text explains its three main pillars (mimetic desire, the scapegoat mechanism, and the Biblical “difference”) with the help of examples from literature and philosophy. This book also offers an overview of René Girard’s life and work, showing how much mimetic theory results from existential and spiritual insights into one’s own mimetic entanglements. Furthermore it examines the broader implications of Girard’s theories, from the mimetic aspect of sovereignty and wars to the relationship between the scapegoat mechanism and the question of capital punishment. Mimetic theory is placed within the context of current cultural and political debates like the relationship between religion and modernity, terrorism, the death penalty, and gender issues. Drawing textual examples from European literature (Cervantes, Shakespeare, Goethe, Kleist, Stendhal, Storm, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Proust) and philosophy (Plato, Camus, Sartre, Lévi-Strauss, Derrida, Vattimo), Palaver uses mimetic theory to explore the themes they present. A highly accessible book, this text is complemented by bibliographical references to Girard’s widespread work and secondary literature on mimetic theory and its applications, comprising a valuable bibliographical archive that provides the reader with an overview of the development and discussion of mimetic theory until the present day.
4 Examples of Mimesis/Imitation within the Gospels
In ancient Greece , mimesis was an idea that governed the creation of works of art, in particular, with correspondence to the physical world understood as a model for beauty , truth , and the good. Plato contrasted mimesis, or imitation , with diegesis , or narrative. After Plato , the meaning of mimesis eventually shifted toward a specifically literary function in ancient Greek society, and its use has changed and been reinterpreted many times since. One of the best-known modern studies of mimesis, understood as a form of realism in literature, is Erich Auerbach 's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature , which opens with a famous comparison between the way the world is represented in Homer 's Odyssey and the way it appears in the Bible. From these two seminal texts, the Odyssey being Western and the Bible having been written by a variety of Mid-Eastern writers, Auerbach builds the foundation for a unified theory of representation that spans the entire history of Western literature, including the Modernist novels being written at the time Auerbach began his study. In art history , "mimesis", "realism" and "naturalism" are used, often interchangeably, as terms for the accurate, even "illusionistic", representation of the visual appearance of things.
The word "mimetic" comes from the Greek word "mimesis," the act of imitation. The mimetic theory of literary criticism places primary importance on how well a literary work imitates life. In practice, mimetic critical theory often asks how well the literary work conveys universal truths and teaches the reader positive moral values and modes of personal conduct. While few would argue with positive moral values, the theory can be misused, such as justifying violence against those in disagreement. In his book, "Critical Theory Since Plato," University of Washington literature professor Hazard Adams identifies four primary literary theories: expressive, pragmatic, objective and mimetic. Pragmatic theory emphasizes the utility of art -- how reading may positively affect the reader.
Greek lovers, we've got the term for you. Mimesis is a Greek word that means to imitate. What does this have to do with literature, you ask? Good question. Way back when, a nobody named Plato okay, okay, he was kind of a big deal thought that all art—sculpture, poetry, music, you name it—was an imitation of life and nature. Over the years, different literary critics have adopted the term, and it has taken on a life of its own.