The ballad of Ed and Lewis: conflictual mimesis and the revocation of the social contract in James Dickey’s Deliverance

Eric Wilson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


    This paper provides a close critical reading of the novel Deliverance (1970) by
    James Dickey from the perspective of law and literature. It employs the critical
    literary theory of René Girard in suggesting that Deliverance may be usefully
    understood as an interrogation, or even a satire, of the Hobbesian doctrine of
    the social contract. Whereas Hobbes raises the possibility, but then
    conspicuously fails to adequately theorize, the concept of the ‘little
    monarchy’ or the private sovereignty of one man in the wilderness,
    Deliverance is wholly premised upon both the feasibility and the
    desirability of man-the-hunter-as-sovereign. A close reading of the novel
    detects the employment of a number of critical notions of Girard – the
    crisis of undifferentiation, conflictual mimesis, the monstrous doubles – that
    collectively serve to undermine the facile assumption of the universality of
    the social contract as well as any clear demarcation between the realms of
    sovereignty and crime.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)115-160
    Number of pages46
    JournalLaw and Humanities
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    • Conflictual mimesis
    • Crisis of undifferentiation
    • James Dickey
    • Monstrous doubles
    • René Girard

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