Various thinkers have proposed accounts of guilt that either make the concept itself modern (which is arguably what happens when Ruth Benedict contrasts guilt and shame), or which argue for a specifically modern version of guilt (e.g. Paul Oppenheimer). There is something in this. And yet our thinking and practice with regard to guilt is haunted by concepts that, on the face of it, belong to the remote past, such as pollution, collective guilt and original sin. We will explore the forms and significance of this haunting both for our concepts of guilt and in order to problematize modernity.
Samantha Ashenden is Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her current research focuses on guilt, violence and conditions of political legitimacy.
James Brown taught film and literature at Middlesex between 1992 and 2011, and politics and sociology at Birkbeck from 1997 to 2011. He is an Associate Research Fellow at Birkbeck.
They co-ordinate the work of the Guilt Group in the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research
The reading for this lecture is René Girard, ‘Oedipus and the Surrogate Victim’, in Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), chapter 3
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