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Girard, Rene. "Triangular Desire." Girard, Rene.

Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary

Structure. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1965. 1-52.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Defining Desire
This section will be an exposition of the theory of Triangular Desire by Rene Girard, a key
analytical structure to be used in this thesis.

Girard studies the structures that bornes desire in some canonical works of Western literature.
These structures are not mechanical as Girard would say, but are attempts to provide a method on how
to read literature, and in this paper, desire in literature.

The first two key concepts in Girards theory of Triangular Desire are the Self and the
Other. These two terms are (write an intensive study of these two terms and how they are deployed in
other studies such as Saids)

In Girards study of desire, his analyses of literary characters would be most relevant in the
analysis of this thesis on the tradition of mimicry and how it is adopted by the novels of Orhan Pamuk.
Girard establishes the model of mimicry in the western literature by starting with Don Quixote. Don
Quixote imitates what Amadis, an imaginary author, desires and those desires he wants for himself. This
function is also explored in the novels of Flaubert, but much more explicitly in the character of Emma
Bovary who has desires through the romantic heroines who fill her imagination. The second-rate
books which she devoured in her youth have destroyed her spontaneity. This has been called as
Bovarysm, in the essay of James (check name) Gaultier:

The same ignorance, the same inconsistency, the same absence of individual
reaction seem to make them fated to obey the suggestion of an external milieu, for
lack of an auto-suggestion from within.

According to Gaultier, the end-goal of the characters of Flaubert is (quoting what Flaubert
quoted from Gaultier) to see themselves as they are not, which he attributes to the characters
same ignorance, the same inconsistency, the same absence of individual reaction seem to make
them fated to obey the suggestion of an external milieu, for lack of an auto-suggestion from
within. And all these same gestures and acts to imitate from the person they have decided to
be, all that can be imitated, everything exterior, appearance, gesture, intonation, and dress. (all
of which are exhibited by the characters in the novels of Orhan Pamuk, thereby continuing this
tradition of imitation and the structure of triangular desire) (Girard, p. 5)

Girard notes that the desires exhibited by these characters are external aspects of
imitation, meaning, the characters are imitating, or believe they are imitating, the desires of
models they have freely chosen (Girard, p. 5)

In Stendhals The Red and the Black, Girard studies the vaniteux man in the character of
Julien Sorell. A vaniteux is defined as a man who desire any object so long as he is convinced
that it is already desired by another person whom he admires. The mediator here is a rival,
brought into existence as a rival by vanity, and that same vanity demands his defeat. The rivalry
between mediator and the person who desires constitutes an essential difference between this
desire and that of Don Quixote, or of Madame Bovary (Girard, p. 7) (differentiate with
Pamuks version of the vaniteux):

In most of Stendhals desire it is mediator himself desires the object or could desire it, it
is even this very desire, real or presumed, which makes this object infinitely desirable in
the eyes of the subject. The mediation begets a second desire exactly the same as the
mediators. This means that one is always confronted with two competing desires. The
mediator can no longer act his role of model without also acting or appearing to act the
role of the obstacle. (Girard, p. 7)

This triangular structure of desire has two categories: external mediation and internal
mediation. According to Girard, external mediation happens when the distance is sufficient to
eliminate any contact between the two spheres of possibilities of which the mediator and the
subject occupy the respective centeres (source) while internal mediation happens when the
same distance is sufficiently reduced to allow these two spheres to penetrate each other more or
less profoundly. (source) (according to Girard, one can measure this not literally but it can be


Contrast with the characters of Pamuk: The hero of external mediation proclaims aloud the true
nature of his desire. He worships his model openly and declares himself his disciple The
parallel between Don Quixote and Madame Bovary has become classic. It is always easy to
recognize analogies between two novels of external mediation. (Girard, p. 11)

And yet the imitation is no less strict and literal in internal mediation than in external
mediation. If it seems surprising it is not only because the imitation refers to a model who is
close, but also because the hero of internal mediation, far from boasting of his efforts to
imitate, carefully hides them. (Girard, p. 11)
The relationship between the narrator and his double:
The impulse toward the object is ultimately an impulse toward the mediator; in internal
mediation this impulse is checked by the mediator himself since he desires, or perhaps possesses,
the object. Fascinated by his model, the disciple inevitablu sees, in the mechanical obstacle
which he puts in his way, proof of the ill will borne him. Far from declaring himself a faithful
vassal, he thinks only of repudiating the bonds of mediation. But these bonds are stronger than
ever, for the mediators apparent hostilitu does not diminish his prestige but instead augments it.
The subject is convinced that the model considers himself too superior to accept him as a
disciple. The subject is torn between two opposite feelings toward his moder---the most
submissive reverence and the most intense malice. This is the passion we call hatred. (Girard, p.
11) (For The White Castle)
Only someone who prevents us from satisfying a desire which he himself has inspired in
us is truly an object of [end of p. 11] hatred, The person who hates himself for the secret
admiration concealed by his hatred. In an effort to hide this desperate admiration from others,
and from himself, he no longer wants to see in his mediator anything but an obstacle. The
secondary role of the mediator thus becomes primary, concealing his original function of a
model scrupulously imitated.
In the quarrel which puts him in opposition to his rival, the subject reverses the logical
and chronological order of desires in order to hide his imitation. He asserts that his own desire is
prior to that of his rival; according to him, it is the mediator who is responsible for the rivalry.
Everything that originates with this mediator is systematically belittled although still secretly
desired. Now the mediator is a shrewd and diabolical enemy; he tries to rob the subject of his
most prized possessions; he obstinately thwarts his most legitimate ambitions. (Girard, p. 11)
(For The White Castle)
Jealousy and envy

Jealousy and envy imply a third presence: object, subject, and a third person toward
whom the jealousy or envy is directed. These two vices are therefore triangular; however we
never recognize a model in the person who arouses jealousy because we always take a jealous
persons attitude toward the problem of jealousy. Like all victims of internal mediation, the
jealous person easily convinces himself that his desire is spontaneous, in other words, that is
deeply rooted in the object and in this object alone. As a result he always maintains that his
desire preceded the intervention of the mediator. He would have us see him as an intruder, a
bore, a terzo incomodo who interrupts a delightful tete-a-tete. Jealousy is thus reduced to the
irritation we all experience when one of our desires is accidentally thwarted. But true jealousy is
infinitely more profound and complex; it walways contains an element of fascination with the
insolent rival. Furthermore, it is always the same people who suffer from jealousy. Is it possible
that they are all victims by repeated accidents? Is it fate that creates for them so many rivals and
throws so many obstacles in the way of their desires? We do not believe it ourselves, since we
say that these chronic victims of jealousy or of envy have a jealous temperament or an envious
nature. What exactly then does such a temperament or nature imply if not an irresistible
impulse to desire what Others desire, in other words to imitate the desires of others?
Max Scheler numbers envy, jealousy, and rivalry among the sources of ressentiment.
He defines envy as a feeling of impotence which vitiates our attempt to acquire [end of p. 12]
something because it belongs to another. He observes, on the other hand, that there would be no
envy, in the strong sense of the word, if the envious persons imagination did not transform into
concerted opposition the passive obstacle which the possessor puts in his way by the mere fact of
possession. Mere regret at not possessing something which belongs to another and which we
covet is not enough in itself to give rise to envy since it might also be an incentive for acquiring
the desired object or something similarEnvy occurs only when, our efforts to acquire it fail and
we are left with a feeling of impotence. (Girard, p. 13)

The analysis is accurate and complete ; it omits neither the envious persons self-
deception with regard to the cause of his failure, nor the paralysis that accompanies envy. But
these elements remain isolated; scheler has not really perceived their relationship. On the other
hand everything becomes clear, everything fits into a coherent structure if, in order to explain
envby, we abandon the object of rivalry as a staring point and choose instead the rival himself,
i.e., the mediator, as both a point of departure for our analysis and its conclusion. Possession is
merely a passive obstacle; it is frustrating and seems a deliberate expression of contempt only
because the rival is secretly revered. The demigod seems to answer homage with a curse. He
seems to render evil for good. The subject would like to think of himself as the victim of an
atrocious injustice but in his anguish he wonders whether perhaps he does not deserve his
apparent condemnation. Rivalry therefore only aggravates mediation; it increases the mediators
prestige and strengthens the bond which links the object to this mediator by forcing him to affirm
openly his right or desire of possession. Thus the subject is less capable than ever of giving up
the inaccessible object: it is on this object and it alone that the mediator con- [end of p. 13]fers
his prestige, by possessing or wanting to possess it. Other objects have no worth at all in the eyes
of the envious person, even though they may be similar to or indeed identical with the mediated
Everything becomes clear when one see that the loathed rival is actually a mediator. Max
Scheler himself is not far from the truth when he stares in Ressentiment that the fact of choosing
a model for oneself is the result of a certain tendency, common to all men, to compare oneself
with others, and he goes on to say, all jealousy, all ambition, and even an ideal like the
imitation of Christ is based on such comparisons. But this intuition remains isolated. Only the
great artists attribute to the mediator the position usurped by the object; only they reverse the
commonly accepted hierarchy of desire.

The Romantic Vaniteux
The romantic vaniteux always wants to convince himself that his desire is written into the
nature of things, or which amounts to the same thing, that it is the emanation of a serene
subjectivity, the creation of ex nihilo of a quasi-divine ego. Desire is no longer rooted in the
object perhaps, but it is rooted in the subject; it is certainly not [end of p. 15] rooted in the Other.
The objective and subjective fallacies are one and the same; both originate in the image which
we all have our own desires. Subjectivisms and objectivisms, romanticisms and realisms,
individualisms and scienticisms, idealisms and positivisms appear to be in opposition but are
secretly in agreement to conceal the presence of the mediator. All these dogmas are the aesthetic
or philosophic translation of world views peculiar to internal mediation. They all depend directly
or indirectly on the lie of spontaneous desire. They all defend the same illusion of autonomy to
which modern man is passionately devoted. (Girard, p. 16)