March 5, 2010

girard on the model-obstacle relationship

“The model-obstacle is someone or something over whom the subject cannot win, or in some cases it would be accurate to say that the subject will not allow himself to defeat the model-obstacle, for to achieve that would be to lose the model.  All sorts of self-defeating behavior, including addictions (so well described in Dostoyevsky’s writings), stem from this predicament.  From the standpoint of the mimetic theory, it can only be understood in terms of the mimetic, interdividual character of human existence.  The person in this predicament could be described as stumbling over or being blocked by the skandalon.  The skandalon of the Gospels is an obstacle or stumbling-block (the older meaning of “scandal” in English and French, from the Latin and Greek).  The skandalon is associated with Satan.  This is particularly, e.g., in the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus has spoken of his suffering, death, and resurrection, and Peter rebukes him for saying he will suffer and die.  Jesus in turn rebukes Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a skandalon to me…” (Matt. 16:23).  That is, “you are a scandal, an obstacle, a hindrance to me.”  Here Satan, ususally named as the personified of the mimetic model-obstacle, is “deconstructed” or “demythologized” in that Jesus uses the name to express the mimetic rivalry that obsesses Peter.  Peter wants to identify himself with a worldly winner and in anger he begins telling his master what he can and cannot do.  Something quite similar is reported concerning James and John, who ask to be at Jesus’ chief lieutenants when he comes into his glory (Mark 10:35-45; Matt. 20:20-28)”  (James G. Williams, The Girard Reader, 291-292)

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