Summer School 2010 (looking back)

imitatio logo


12–25 July 2010 The Netherlands


Crisis and Truth

 An interdisciplinary introduction into the thinking of René Girard

From 12 to 25 July, the first European Summer School Mimetic Theory took place in Leusden. Fifteen students and three auditors from Europe and beyond travelled to the International School of Philosophy for an interdisciplinary and intensive two week’s programme. Sixteen teachers, nine of whom were present throughout, took part in the teaching. The programme started with the mimetic epistemology of crisis and truth (Paul Dumouchel) and ended with a perspective on a new way of learning (James Alison). Michael Kirwan and Els Launspach analysed Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Simon Simonse lectured on the fate of the rain queen of Pari and Niki Wandinger shed mimetic light on the dramatic structure of the life of Jesus. Other topics covered were: complex systems (Hans Weigand), our fascination with ‘slimness’ and the disease anorexia (Mark Anspach), and the Cambodja ‘killing fields’ (Paul Dumouchel). Joachim Duyndam explored Heidegger’s Mitsein and Benoît Chantre addressed different notions of transcendence in Girard’s works. A visit to Camp Amersfoort, introduced by Michael Elias, was part of the programme as well. Other people who contributed to the Summer School were: Michael Hardin, who gave an introductory lecture on theory and truth, Wiel Eggen who wrote a daily weblog, Suzanne Ross who monitored the pedagogical process, and Berry Vorstenbosch who provided technical support. Coordinator of the Summer School was Thérèse Onderdenwijngaard. Two interviews with René Girard were screened, one recorded very recently by Daniel Lance , and a 1985 interview made for Dutch television (IKON). The students presented their work in progress twice with members of the Dutch Girard Society attending on the first occasion.

This summary merely offers an outside description of the great event the Summer School turned out to be. Already as early as on the second day, a community of learners, consisting of interested students and inspired teachers had been formed. Also the way the School for Philosophy with its rich history contributed to the atmosphere should be mentioned. Still, in the first place it was the power of the theory, which made these two weeks into such a special experience. As one of the students wrote:

I learned that novelistic conversion isn’t like an argument that can be grasped and adhered to. Rather, it really is like a conversion in that one “undergoes” a change unawares until, on the other side or within it, hindsight is taken up and all the rooms that one previously traveled through are cast in new light. The book- shelves look different, the floor- boards have aged, the windows cast a glance of sunlight and breezes, shadows and cloud-cover. And all the persecutions and carnages, the murders and immolations are taken up too, uncovered, brought before us still our complicity lingers on their vestiges, yet we are invited to a new way of being with the other… to the possibility making something new, something much less violent, something much more together, a togetherness not over and against each other.