René Noël Girard (zhee-rahr) was born to Joseph and Thérèse (Fabre) Girard. After receiving a degree from the University of Paris in 1947, Girard attended Indiana University, which awarded him a Ph.D. in 1950. He taught French at Indiana University, Duke University, and Bryn Mawr College before beginning his influential first tenure at The Johns Hopkins University. Girard’s time at Johns Hopkins culminated with the famous structuralism conference in 1968, which changed forever the shape of critical theory in the United States. From 1971 to 1976 he taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo, then returned to Johns Hopkins, and finally settled at Stanford University, where he became the first Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French language, literature, and civilization at Stanford University in the Department of French and Italian. At Stanford, Girard convened the remarkable Disorder to Order Conference in 1981, which brought an international group of physicists, biologists, economists, and a 1960’s-style mix of human and social scientists to consider competing models of biological, physical, and human order. He retired in 1995.
Girard has always written against the intellectual grain of Anglo-French letters, even in the 1950’s. His earliest work was a series of critical and skeptical reviews of the icons of French intellectual life: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus. His first book, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, scandalously argues for the superior knowledge of social behavior contained in the work of Marcel Proust, Fyodor Dostoevski, and the nineteenth century French novelists of manners. These specialists of jealousy, resentment, and baffled desire presented a novelistic truth that argued for literature (and literary criticism) as one of the human sciences. This book is perhaps the earliest confrontation with what was to become the dominant...
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