Monday, April 2, 2012

Claude Levi-Strauss – The Structural Study of Myth – summary, review and analysis – part 4: the making of myth

Claude Levi-Strauss – The Structural Study of Myth – summary, review and analysis - part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - part 4

Claude Levi-Strauss was heavily influenced by de-Saussure thoughts onthe nature of the linguistic sign. But while de-Saussure separated the synchronic from the diachronic and focused his attention only on the former, Levi-Strauss hold that a myth is not static, and the different times see different versions of the same myth.

When faces with multiple versions of the same myth anthropology until Levi-Strauss was concerned with figuring out which is the "true" version. Levi-Strauss holds that there is no "correct" of "original" version of a myth and that all versions are valid for study especially if studied together. This is because that all versions of a myth, however different in their detail, represent the same "deep structure" of the myth. The extraction of this deep structure of myth can be facilitated by the co-examining of different version of the same myth. The structural study of myth according to Levi-Strauss is able to make order out of chaos by analyzing variations on the structure of the myth. This, for example, can serve to study the way a myth develops over time.

For Levi-Strauss, a myth is the product of contradicting values which exist in every culture. Contradiction such as life and death are irreconcilable and humans are therefore pushed to resolve the contradiction through its symbolic processing in the myth.  The myth works to symbolically resolve cultural contradictions through mediating symbol chains. For example: the contradiction of life/death is translated into the contradiction between agriculture and hunting, which is in turn translated in the myth into the binary pair of herbivores and carnivores and the eventual mediating "in between" symbol of the scavenger (a coyote or raven).
Tracing the route of such symbolic transfigurations in the myth is the manner in which Levi-Strauss believes that anthropology should proceed in the study of myth.

Suggested reading:
      

Claude Levi-Strauss – The Structural Study of Myth – summary, review and analysis - part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - part 4

3 comments:

  1. We just say Saussure, not de-Saussure (or even de Saussure).

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  2. This was a great piece of work. Thank you very much!

    ReplyDelete