- Paperback: 328 pages
- Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; n edition (April 1, 1976)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801818303
- ISBN-13: 978-0801818301
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure n Edition
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"A major work of criticism, altogether original and full of the most remarkable and profound insights."(Comparative Literature)
From the Back Cover
This study extends beyond the scope of literature into the psychology of much of our contemporary scene, including fashion, advertising, and propaganda techniques. In considering such aspects, the author goes beyond the domain of pure aesthetics and offers an interpretation of some basic cultural problems of our time.
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The first insight is that snobs do not have insight into the source of their desires. They instead believe, and feel, that their desires arise from within themselves. They genuinely believe that the object is valuable in and of itself and not just because someone else has it. The shocking corollary of this discovery is that if it appears to snobs that their desires come from within themselves (Like my own) then how can I be sure that my own desires do not originate in the same way as theirs? The second insight - and devastating blow to individualism - is that we are not different to the snob and that almost all of our desires are imitations of other people's desire. That is, I desire it because I see someone else desiring it.
I used to be quite cynical of people who claim that a book "changed my life," but this book really has transformed my view of myself and others. Girard is a must read, and re-read, for everyone. But please don't be like certain liberal priests who use Girard like they used to use Freud - as a weapon to use on one's enemies. Girard's ideas are weapons to use on oneself.
The book argues that the novel as a form is historically preoccupied with one particular dilemma: That when young, each of us believes that the OTHERS have some passport to community that we ourselves lack. The path through life (to maturity or to death) takes place through imitation of, and competition with, those persons who seem to have achieved what we wish ourselves to achieve. As part of this, we often chase after objects whose possession promises to "transform" us into someone else. Think of Swann and high society, Don Quixote and knighthood. If we tilt at windmills-- or seek achievements we don't value once we have them-- it may be because we thought these symbols will yield not merely themselves but also what they symbolize: Don Quixote hopes to become a knight, Swann hopes to become an aristocrat.
When the transformation doesn't happen-- when, for example, Groucho Marx becomes a member of the country club and discovers he's still as uncouth as he always was -- the possession disappoints. The victim then either matures, or sets off on another treasure hunt.
There has never been a work of literary criticism so revealing of the human psyche as DECEIT, DESIRE AND THE NOVEL. Girard's book focuses on envy, but in the process reveals a path to becoming genuine. If nothing else, this book will send you back to Proust, Cervantes and Stendhal greedy for text.