Chapter

Lévi-strauss and the Structural Map

in Language of the Gun

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780226316086
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226316079 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226316079.003.0008
Lévi-strauss and the Structural Map

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This chapter focuses on a structuralist response as expressed in the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss. There are several points of contact between Lévi-Strauss and Sartre. The most direct confrontation occurred in the mid-1960s after Sartre published his second major philosophical work, Critique de la raison dialectique (1960), a work intended to harmonize his earlier existentialist thought with Marxism. Lévi-Strauss devoted the concluding chapter of his book La pensée sauvage (1962) to a criticism of Sartre's Critique, focusing on the tension between the historical nature of Marxist thought and the static nature of the structuralist method. Sartre responded in interviews, and most of the secondary literature discusses this episode. But given the present focus on Sartre's earlier existentialist writings, a more appropriate place to start is Lévi-Strauss's study of mythology. From this angle, the structuralist would view the “Catalina interviews”—of young males at Catalina Mountain School in Tucson, Arizona—as presenting variations on a “passage to adulthood” myth. The Catalina transcripts represent different versions of the larger constellation of myths about how young men enter manhood. The structuralist task would be to decipher clusters of common relations between elements of the interviews in order to better understand the individual versions and the myth collectively. Lévi-Strauss dedicated a series of books to this enterprise, beginning with La pensée sauvage but then writing four volumes specifically on the “science of mythology.”

Keywords: Lévi-Strauss; existentialism; Marxism; structuralist method; mythology; Catalina interviews

Chapter.  8142 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Criminal Law

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