Positive mimesis—imitation that avoids rivalry and enhances communion—no doubt takes many forms, yet I suspect that most of them involve an element of play or a spirit of playfulness. I’ve been thinking about this while working on a project about Dante’s vision of perfected community in Paradiso. Dante’s heaven is profoundly playful, though seeing this takes some imagination because of his weighty themes and dense poetry. In everyday life, too, it takes imagination to find playful alternatives to the cycles of habitual rivalry and conflict we are prone to. What are the practices of playful community Dante helps us learn to imagine? One is the idea of overaccepting from the theory of improvisation: responding to another not with just a “no” or a mere “yes,” but with a “yes and.” Sam Wells has explored overaccepting as an approach to Christian ethics in Improvisation, and Scott Cowdell translates it to a vertical, theological register in chapter 7 of René Girard and the Nonviolent God. I want commend two other resources for conceiving the dynamic play of positive mimesis.
The first is a great little book called Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse, an emeritus professor of the history and literature of religion at New York University, who died on September 25, 2020. Carse begins: “There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” He goes on to unfold, in a provocative, aphoristic style, a universe of implications—social, political, spiritual—from this basic distinction.
I’m very pleased to announce a theme issue of the journal Christian Scholar’s Review on “The Promise of Mimetic Theory as an Interdisciplinary Paradigm for Christian Scholars,” which I edited. My introduction gives an overview of work on mimetic theory across the disciplines. Other articles include: a wide-ranging integration of mimetic theory with work on conflict in social psychology by COV&R board member Kathy Frost; “Without Rival: Mimetic Theory in a First-Year Seminar” by book review editor Matthew Packer; “Between the Gospel and Myth: The Biblical Critique of Persecution in Cane, Sanctuary, and Beloved,” by Martin Kevorkian; and “From Violence Loop to Conversion Spiral: Mimetic Theory and Communities of Care for Children with Disabilities,” a dialogue in which my colleague from Hope College’s Social Work program, Dennis Feaster, and I discuss the work we presented at COV&R’s 2019 annual meeting at Innsbruck. The complete contents will soon be available at christianscholars.com. You may also email me if you would like me to send it as a pdf file.
Michigan State University Press has announced Violence, the Sacred, and Things Hidden: Discussion with René Girard at Esprit (1973), translated by Andrew J. McKenna, in the series Breakthroughs in Mimetic Theory, scheduled for November 2021.
The deadline for submissions to the special issue of Xiphias Gladius on “Positive Mimesis: Education and Mimetic Theory” has been extended until March 31, 2021. Here is the announcement.
2021 COV&R Annual Meeting at Purdue
Robots, Mimesis, and Violence in the Age of AI”
An online meeting of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion
July 7-10, 2021, at Purdue University
Sandor Goodhart and Tom Ryba
We are happy to announce that COV&R 2021 will take place as planned through the digital meeting platform utilized by Purdue Conferences. All meetings will be digitally recorded and available to conference participants and other registrants for downloading for up to one year following the conference. Information regarding registration will be forthcoming shortly through Purdue’s conference website.
For a complete call for papers and further information as it becomes available, see the annual meeting page on the COV&R website.
All conference meetings will take place over the specified four days and be either plenary or concurrent and last roughly ninety minutes each. Moreover, all concurrent sessions will consist of up to three separate 90-minute meetings in separate virtual rooms. Given a schedule of papers that needs to accommodate papers delivered in real time by participants in Asian, Australian, British, European, and perhaps other time zones (as well as those in the United States), we anticipate the delivery of between 80 and 120 papers. We will also be particularly sensitive—given the nature of the topic and the goal of the conference—to leave as much time as possible for question and answer sessions. As has been customary at COV&R conferences for many years now, we will continue to encourage papers that are off-topic.
Although the conference will be online, we anticipate that the Raymond Schwager prize will continue to be awarded as in the past and the winners invited to prepare papers for delivery. More information on these contests will be forthcoming.
Finally, because this conference was originally planned for July 2020, a number of inquiries had already been received before the date of Purdue’s cancellation of all in-person campus activities for the spring and summer. We have retained all such inquiries and see no reason in principle that a proposal already accepted would not be accepted in the present context for July 2021. But because of the new online format, we encourage all previous proposers to communicate with us once again and either remind us of your submission or resubmit your proposal to us before the May 1 deadline.
Please send abstracts of at least 150 words by May 1, 2021, to Sandor Goodhart.
All inquiries will be acknowledged and paper givers will be notified no later than May 15, 2021.
American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting
San Antonio, Texas, November 20-23, 2021
Call for Papers for COV&R Sessions
Convener: Grant Kaplan
Board of Advisers: Martha Reineke, Brian Robinette, and Chelsea King
The Colloquium on Violence & Religion section invites paper proposals on the following themes:
- Papers related to the pandemic that apply mimetic theory to analysis about the pandemic and what it reveals about our common humanity, with particular attention to religious themes
- Topics related to an examination of mimetic theory in relation to the theme of friendship, for example, around the themes of friendship and religious experience, friendship in the context of us/them bias in society, friendship in conflict and reconciliation, and the theme of social friendship in conversation with the recent papal encyclical “Fratelli Tutti,”
- Topics related to eucharistic practice and the theme of spirituality
In addition, we invite a panel proposal on recent books related to mimetic theory, in particular, Giuseppe Fornari’s Dionysus, Christ, and the Death of God (Michigan State Press, 2020).
Proposals should be between 200-500 words and will be judged anonymously through the AAR’s INSPIRE portal, where proposals should be submitted. The deadline has been extend to March 8.