Mirror of princes: René Girard, Aristotle, and the rebirth of tragedy

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RenC Girard is a theorist who finds evidence in literature and drama for his anthropological hypothesis of human origin and the role of scapegoating in human affairs. The originary scene of human evolution is described by the generative anthropology of Eric Gans in a way that refines Girard. Generative anthropology also permits an evolutionary model of esthetic form founded on the originary scene that can account for Aristotle's insights into both esthetic and political affairs. As a comparison of Girard's postmodern analysis with the classical analysis of Aristotle's Poetics suggests, there are constants in esthetic evolution. A fivefold pattern of narrative universals can be abstracted from Aristotle and Girard as a model for tracking evolutionary progress and cultural rebirth. This model for esthetic history may also be developed to account for political form as evolved in particular cultures and mirrored in their drama (Aeschylus' Athens and Shakespeare's England). Girard's political model is impractically apocalyptic because it demands the end of the allegedly one and only earthly regime ("scapegoating"). But Aristotle's many mixed regime types in the Politics afford a better evolutionary model for how regime change is mirrored in esthetic form to commemorate real transitions between historical epochs. Such cultural change is initiated by the deliberate "firstness" of statesmanlike prudence. As generative anthropology suggests, the classical and neoclassical esthetics are distinct eras in the evolution of human experience. This evolution is visible in the transitions commemorated in Aeschylus' Oresteia and Shakespeare's Henriad. In the classical esthetic, the separation of office from person, which establishes a secure basis for territorial loyalty, is signified in Aeschy1u.s' Oresteia. This is what Athena's Eumenides represent in the new context of the Areopagus, as society evolves from Orestes, who represented requisite divine justice in the context of Agamemnon's murder. In the neoclassical esthetic, the binding of territorial loyalty to the corporate personality of the human sovereign who rules by consent is signified in Shakespeare's Henriad. This is what Henry V represents in the new context of Agincourt, as society evolves from Henry IV, who represented requisite human ceremony in the context of Richard 11's deposition.

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Special Arrangements: Humanities and English - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)