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Girard on Seinfeld

I’m now reading Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture, another “conversation” book with Girard, very much intended as a sequel to Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World. It is a remarkable book, in some ways a complete overhaul of the earlier dialogues – even if the major vectors of his mimetic and scapegoat theories are much the same. Girard has become much more precise in both his criticism and his acknowledgement of the debt to Freud, Levi-Strauss, et al., and the breadth of his knowledge is nothing short of astonishing. On top of that, he ‘s a fan of Seinfeld:

… the majority of Hollywood or TV productions are very much based on the false romantic notion of the autonomy of the individual and the authenticity of his/her own desire. Of course there are exceptions, like the popular sit-com Seinfeld, which uses mimetic mechanisms constantly and depicts its characters as puppets of mimetic desire. I do not like the fact that Seinfeld makes fun of high culture, which is nothing but mimetic snobbery, but it is a very clever and powerful show. It is also the only show which can afford to make fun of political correctness and can talk about imprtant current phenomena such as the anorexia and bulimia epidemic, which clearly have strong mimetic components. From a moral point of view, it is a hellish description of our contemporary world, but at the same time, it shows a tremendous amount of talent and there are powerful insights regarding our mimetic situation.

Probably the contemporaries of Shakespeare appreciated his portrayal of human relations in the same way we enjoy Seinfeld, without really understanding his perspicaciousness regarding mimetic interaction. I must say that there is more social reality in Seinfeld than in most academic sociology.

Being the author of a great book on Shakepeare, Theater of Envy, and something of an academic sociologist himself, this is high praise indeed.


  1. Big Jon, Bully says

    Incredible, thanks for that.

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