The experience and the idea of war in the writings of Simone Weil and Marguerite Duras

Tristana Dini read

This article considers the works of Simone Weil and Marguerite Duras as witnesses and narrators of the events of the Second World War. Their two perspectives offer a first, original reflection by women intellectuals on war and violence based on direct involvement. Simone Weil construed her idea of ‘force’ from her first-hand experience of the Spanish Civil War and her participation in the French Resistance, in London. Marguerite Duras offered her personal testimony of war violence (in the French Resistance, in France) intertwining fiction and reality, wavering together autobiography and invention. Duras, in the contrary, tried to represent the unrepresentable by connecting her personal to a collective trauma.

European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire , vol. 25, no. 5 (2018), pp. 818-830

Simone Weil: Reason, faith, and empathy

Jeannine E. Pitas read

Excerpts: “What would Weil think of the world we inhabit today? . . . .”

“Whenever I read Weil’s words, I ask myself the same question. What would she think of the world we inhabit today? The fact that academic interest in her work has skyrocketed in recent years suggests that many people have the same question. What would she say about Brexit, a U.S. president elected on a platform of nativism and xenophobia, and the rise of far-right political parties across Europe? What would be her response to the five-year civil war in Syria and the ongoing reality of global terrorism? What would she say about environmental degradation and the mass extinction of species that human activity has caused? What would she make of artificial intelligence and the increased power that humans are choosing to give machines?”

US Catholic (May 31, 2017)

Jeannine M. Pitas is a writer, teacher, and Spanish-English literary translator currently living in Dubuque, Iowa, where she teaches English and Spanish at the University of Dubuque. She is also a regular contributor to the Catholic blog Vox Nova.

Decreation and the Ethical Bind

Yoon Sook Cha read

In Simone Weil’s philosophical and literary work, obligation emerges at the conjuncture of competing claims: the other’s self-affirmation and one’s own dislocation; what one has and what one has to give; a demand that asks for too much and the extraordinary demand implied by asking nothing. The other’s claims upon the self―which induce unfinished obligation, unmet sleep, hunger―drive the tensions that sustain the scene of ethical relationality at the heart of this book.

Decreation and the Ethical Bind is a study in decreative ethics in which self-dispossession conditions responsiveness to a demand to preserve the other from harm. In examining themes of obligation, vulnerability, and the force of weak speech that run from Levinas to Butler, the book situates Weil within a continental tradition of literary theory in which writing and speech articulate ethical appeal and the vexations of response. It elaborates a form of ethics that is not grounded in subjective agency and narrative coherence but one that is inscribed at the site of the self’s depersonalization.

New York: Fordham University Press, 2020

Yoon Sook Cha received her Ph.D. in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley.

“Despair is the Handmaiden of War”

E. Jane Doering

in Rozelle-Stone, A. Rebecca & Stone, Lucian, eds., The Relevance of the Radical: Simone Weil 100 Years Later, New York: Continuum, pp. 159-175

René Girard’s Mimetic Desire as Seen in the Writings of Simone Weil

E. Jane Doering read

Rene Girard’s expansive comments apropos Simone Weil to a French journalist in 1987 give food for exploring intertwining of themes in the thought of Girard and Weil, whom he considered one of the greatest intellects of her time. I plan to expand those concepts of Weil that he admired: mimetic desire, reciprocal violence, collective victimization, Christ as the Truth, and caritas, while testing their limits, and suggest divergences of thought: on historical progress; disdain for the Old Testament, despite her Jewish ancestry; and the Revelation in respect to non-Christian societies.

In the concept of mimetic desire, Girard applauded Simone Weil’s horror of the “Great Beast” mentality, which she found even in the Church. He praises her insights into Christ’s parable of the adulterous woman for its mimetic group behavior but also for its implied concepts of punishment. The mimetic rivalry that holds primacy in her “The Iliad: A Poem of Force,” impelling the Greeks and the Trojans to destroy each other, had a decisive influence on Girard.

Girard prized Simone Weil’s “theory of the human condition,” illuminated by the Gospels: Christ incarnates the Truth; to pursue the Truth implies always going toward Him. Loving God and loving the order of the world are one, and love of neighbor must govern social decisions. Weil selflessly spent her early activist energies on encouraging marginalized workers to improve their inhuman working conditions. Weil’s concept of decreation has its model in Christ, i.e., He is the innocent, pure, victim, a model of selflessness, free consent to God’s love, and total obedience. In the Bhagavad Gita, Weil found corroboration of her ideas for minimizing violence and its contagion.

The two principal Girard texts for my presentation will be: Violence and the Sacred, and Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre.

E. Jane Doering, “René Girard’s Mimetic Desire as Seen in the Writings of Simone Weil” at Transforming Violence: Cult, Culture, and Acculturation, (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University, 2010).


Homer and Simone Weil: The Iliad sub specie violentiae

James P. Holoka read

Simone Weil’s varied writings are chapters in an autobiography of the mind, best understood in light of the zeal with which she lived life and expressed her thoughts. Although only thirty years old in 1939/40 when she wrote “The Iliad, or The Poem of Force,” she had already confronted a wide range of fundamental issues on a philosophical plane and carried over that struggle into her personal life. The ardor she brought to her intellectual pursuits and to the particular causes to which she devoted her time and energies makes Weil an attractive subject for biographers, as the spate of works on her life and career in the last thirty years attests.


James P. Holoka, Simone Weil’s The Iliad or the Poem of Force: A Critical Edition, Peter Lang Inc. (2006).