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Eric Lawrence Gans
Born (1941-08-21) August 21, 1941 (age 73)
Occupation Professor of French Literature, Literary Critic, theorist,
Subject Generative Anthropology, Philosophy of Language, French Literature, Film

Eric Lawrence Gans (born August 21, 1941) is an American literary scholar, philosopher of language, and cultural anthropologist. Since 1969, he has taught 19th century literature, critical theory, and film in the UCLA Department of French and Francophone studies.

Gans invented a new science of human culture and origins he calls Generative Anthropology, based on the idea that the origin of language was a singular event and that the history of human culture is a genetic or "generative" development of that event. In a series of books and articles beginning with The Origin of Language: A Formal Theory of Representation (1981) Gans has developed his ideas about human culture, language, and origins. In 1995, Gans founded (and continues to edit) the web-based journal Anthropoetics: The Journal of Generative Anthropology as a scholarly forum for research into human culture and origins based on Generative Anthropology and the closely related Fundamental Anthropology of René Girard. Since 1995, Gans has web-published his Chronicles of Love and Resentment, consisting of reflections on everything from popular culture, film, post-modernism, economics, contemporary politics, the Holocaust, philosophy, religion, and paleoanthropology. 424 Chronicles have appeared as of June 2012.

Generative Anthropology[edit]

Background[edit]

Generative Anthropology grew out of Gans' association with Girard at Johns Hopkins University. Gans was Girard’s first doctoral student, receiving his PhD in 1966. But it was only on the publication of "La violence et le sacré" in 1972 that Gans became interested in Girard's idea of mimetic desire and the connection between violence and the sacred in Girard's work. The concept of mimetic desire forms one of the cornerstones of Generative Anthropology. Girard argues that human desire is essentially cultural or social in nature, and thus distinct from mere appetite, which is biological. For Girard, desire is triangular in structure, an imitation of the desire of another. Desire, therefore, leads to conflict, when two individuals attempt to possess the same object. In a group, this mimetic conflict typically escalates into a mimetic crisis which threatens the very existence of the group. For Girard, this conflict is resolved by the scapegoat mechanism, in which the destructive energies of the group are purged through the violence directed towards an arbitrarily selected victim. Girard sees the scapegoating mechanism as the origin of human culture and language.

The Originary Hypothesis[edit]

Gans agrees with Girard that human language originates in the context of a mimetic crisis, but he does not find the scapegoat mechanism, by itself, as an adequate explanation for the origin of language. Gans hypothesizes that language originates in "an aborted gesture of appropriation," which signifies the desired object as sacred and which memorializes the birth of language, serving as the basis for rituals which recreate the originary event symbolically. For a more detailed explanation of the originary hypothesis, see Generative Anthropology.

The Scene of Representation[edit]

For Gans, language is essentially "scenic" in character, that is, structurally defined by a sacred center and human periphery. In the secular culture which develops later, "significance" serves as an attenuated form of the sacred. The scene of representation is a true cultural universal and the basic model for cultural analysis. Generative Anthropology attempts to understand the various means by which transcendence or meaning (which is always ethically functional) is created on a scene of representation.

Life and Education[edit]

Eric Lawrence Gans was born in Bronx, New York on August 21, 1941. He received a B.A. in French (Summa cum laude) from Columbia College in 1960. Going on to graduate work in Romance languages at Johns Hopkins University, he received his M.A. in 1961 and a Ph.D in 1966. After two years as an Assistant Professor at Indiana University, he went on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1969. In 1978, he served at Johns Hopkins University as a visiting Professor. He continues his teaching, research, and writing today as a Professor of French at UCLA.

Critics[edit]

The main source of criticism directed against Gans' work comes from Girard himself, who claims that Generative Anthropology is just another version of social contract theories of origins. Others take issue with Gans' conservative political views as expressed in his Chronicles of Love and Resentment. Gans has entered into constructive conversation with contrasting views on Middle Eastern politics in his published dialogue with Ammar Abdulhamid: "A Dialogue on the Middle East and Other Subjects."

Generative Anthropology Society & Conference[edit]

The Generative Anthropology Society & Conference (GASC) is a scholarly association formed for the purpose of facilitating intellectual exchange amongst those interested in fundamental reflection on the human, originary thinking, and generative anthropology, including support for regular conferences. GASC was formally organized on June 24, 2010 at Westminster College, Salt Lake City during the 4th Annual Generative Anthropology Summer Conference. Further information, including how to join, can be found at the Generative Anthropology Society & Conference Website.

Since 2007, Generative Anthropology Society & Conference (GASC) has held an annual summer conference on Generative Anthropology.

2007 - Vancouver (Kwantlen University College, U of British Columbia)

2008 - Orange, CA (Chapman University)

2009 - Ottawa, Ontario (University of Ottawa)

2010 - Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah (Westminster College, Salt Lake City and Brigham Young University)

2011 - High Point, NC (High Point University)

2012 - Tokyo, Japan, International Christian University

2013 - Los Angeles, CA (UCLA)

Honors[edit]

  • Phi Beta Kappa (elected in junior year)
  • Woodrow Wilson fellow 1960-61
  • Prix de la langue française - Académie française 1977
  • Chevalier des Palmes Académiques 1982

Bibliography[edit]

Books[edit]

  • The Discovery of Illusion: Flaubert's Early Works, 1835-37. University of California Press, 1971.
  • The Origin of Language: A Formal Theory of Representation. University of California Press, 1981.
  • The End of Culture: Toward a Generative Anthropology. University of California Press, 1985.
  • Madame Bovary: The End of Romance. Boston: G. K. Hall (Twayne's Masterwork Studies), 1989.
  • Science and Faith: The Anthropology of Revelation. Savage, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1990.
  • Originary Thinking: Elements of Generative Anthropology. Stanford University Press, 1993.
  • Signs of Paradox: Irony, Resentment, and Other Mimetic Structures. Stanford University Press, 1997.
  • The Scenic Imagination: Originary Thinking from Hobbes to the Present Day. Stanford University Press, 2007.
  • Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. University of Mississippi Press, 2008.
  • A New Way of Thinking: Generative Anthropology in Religion, Philosophy, Art. The Davies Group, 2011.
  • The Girardian Origins of Generative Anthropology. Imitatio/Amazon Digital Services, 2012.

Selected Articles[edit]

"Scandal to the Jews, Folly to the Pagans." Diacritics 9, 3, (Fall 1979): 43-53.

"Differences." MLN 96 (French, Spring 1981): 792-808.

"Beckett and the Problem of Modern Culture." Sub-Stance XI, 2 (1982): 3-15.

"The Culture of Resentment." Philosophy and Literature 8, 1 (April 1984): 55-66.

"Christian morality and the Pauline Revelation." Semeia 33 (1985): 97-108.

"Sacred Text in Secular Culture." In To Honor René Girard, Stanford French & Italian Studies 34, (1986): 51-64.

"Art and Entertainment." Perspectives of New Music 24, 1 (Fall-Winter 1985): 24-37.

"The Necessity of Fiction." Sub-Stance 50 (Sept. 1986): 36-47.

"The Past and Future of Generative Anthropology: Reflections on the Departmental Colloquium." Paroles Gelées: UCLA French Studies 8 (1990): 35-41.

"The Beginning and End of Esthetic Form." Perspectives of New Music 29, 2 (Summer 1991): 8-21.

"The Unique Source of Religion and Morality." Anthropoetics 1, 1 (June 1995): 10 pp. Revised version in Contagion 3 (Spring 1996): 51-65.

"Mimetic Paradox and the Event of Human Origin." Anthropoetics 1, 2 (December 1995): 15 pp.

"Plato and the Birth of Conceptual Thought." Anthropoetics 2, 2 (January 1997): 11 pp.

"Chronicles of Love and Resentment" [selections]. Epoché XX (1995–96): 1-22.

"The Holocaust and the Victimary Revolution." In Poetics of the Americas: Race, Founding, and Textuality, Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1997, 123-139.

"Originary Narrative." Anthropoetics 3, 2 (February 1998): 10 pp.

"Aesthetics and Cultural Criticism." boundary 2 25, 1 (Spring 1998): 67-85.

"The Little Bang: The Early Origin of Language." Anthropoetics 5, 1 (Spring / Summer 1999) : 6 pp. Also in 'Contagion' 7 (Spring 2000): 1-17.

"The Last Word in Lyric: Mallarmé's Silent Siren." New Literary History 30, 4 (Autumn 1999): 785-814.

"'Staging as an Anthropological Category.'" New Literary History 31, 1 (Winter 2000): 45-56.

"The Sacred and the Social: Defining Durkheim's Anthropological Legacy." Anthropoetics 6, 1 (Spring / Summer 2000): 7 pp.

"Form Against Content: René Girard's Theory of Tragedy." Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 56, 1-2 (Jan.-June 2000): 53-65.

"The Body Sacrificial." In The Body Aesthetic: From Fine Art to Body Modification, ed. Tobin Siebers, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000, 159-78.

"Originary Democracy and the Critique of Pure Fairness." In The Democratic Experience and Political Violence, ed. David Rapoport and Leonard Weinberg, London: Frank Cass, 2001, 308-24. Also issued as Terrorism and Political Violence 12, 3-4 (Autumn/Winter 2000).

"Mallarmé contra Wagner." Philosophy and Literature 25, 1 (April 2001): 14-30.

(With Ammar Abdulhamid) "A Dialogue on the Middle East and Other Subjects." Anthropoetics 7, 2 (Fall 2001 / Winter 2002): 16 pp. Also (in two parts) in Maaber 8 (Fall 2002) and 9 (Fourth Quarter, 2002).

“Originary and/or Kantian Aesthetics.” Poetica (Munich) 35, 3-4 (2003): 335-53.

"End of an Illusion." [on Quentin Tarantino] Cinematic: The Harvard Annual Film Review 2 (2004): 29-31.

"The Market and Resentment." In Passions in Economy, Politics, and the Media, ed. Wolfgang Palaver and Petra Steinmar-Pösel, Vienna: Lit Verlag, 2005, 85-102.

"Clouzot's Cruel Crow." p.o.v.: A Danish Journal of Film Studies 20 (12/2005): 51-58.

"John Rawls's Originary Theory of Justice." Contagion 13 (2006): 149-58.

"White Guilt, Past and Future." Anthropoetics 12, 2 (Fall 2006/Winter 2007): 8 pp.

"Qu’est-ce que la littérature, aujourd’hui?" New Literary History 38, 1 (Winter 2007): 33-41.

(with Antun Pavešković) "Razgovor o generativnoj antropologiji" [Conversation about generative anthropology]; "Podrijetlo jezika" [The origin of language]. Republika (Zagreb) LXIII, 5 (May 2007): 48-76.

"On Firstness" (45-57) and “Generative Anthropology and Bronx Romanticism” (153-164). The Originary Hypothesis: A Minimal Proposal for Humanistic Inquiry (ed. Adam Katz), Davies Publishing Group, 2007.

"Generative Anthropology: A New Way of Thinking?" Anthropoetics 13, 2 (Special GATE Issue, Fall 2007).

"La priméité: de l'origine à l'Holocauste et au-delà." In René Girard. Paris: L'Herne, 2008, 255-60.

"Religion et connaissance." Intellectica. 50 (2008/3): 61-72.

"René et moi." In For René Girard. ed. Goodhart et al., East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009, 19-25.

Interview with Blaue Narzisse August 2009.

"Hermeneutika" [Hermeneutics]. Republika. (Zagreb) LXVI, 1 (January 2010): 46-50.

External links[edit]


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