Myth and Meaning: Cracking the Code of Culture
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Ever since the rise of science and the scientific method in the seventeenth century, we have rejected mythology as the product of superstitious and primitive minds. Only now are we coming to a fuller appreciation of the nature and role of myth in human history. In these five lectures originally prepared for Canadian radio, Claude Lévi-Strauss offers, in brief summations, the insights of a lifetime spent interpreting myths and trying to discover their significance for human understanding.
The lectures begin with a discussion of the historical split between mythology and science and the evidence that mythic levels of understanding are being reintegrated in our approach to knowledge. In an extension of this theme, Professor Lévi-Strauss analyzes what we have called “primitive thinking” and discusses some universal features of human mythology. The final two lectures outline the functional relationship between mythology and history and the structural relationship between mythology and music.
matter of fact, it was about the time when mythical thought—I would not say vanished or disappeared—but passed to the background in western thought during the Renaissance and the seventeenth century, that the first novels began to appear instead of stories still built on the model of mythology. And it was exactly at that time that we witnessed the appearance of the great musical styles characteristic of the seventeenth and, mostly, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is exactly as if
doubly false. In the first place, even in the field of the humanities, it is not new at all; we can follow very well this trend of thought from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century and to the present time. But it is also wrong for another reason: what we call structuralism in the field of linguistics, or anthropology, or the like, is nothing other than a very pale and faint imitation of what the ‘hard sciences,’ as I think you call them in English, have been doing all the time. The meeting
the senses, as opposed to images and symbols and the like. We are witnessing the moment when this divorce will perhaps be overcome or reversed, because modern science seems to be able to make progress not only in its own traditional line—pushing forward and forward but still within the same narrow channel—but also at the same time to widen the channel and to reincorporate a great many problems previously left outside. In this respect, I may be subjected to the criticism of being called
master or dominate the South Wind and succeeding. It is a story of a time that existed on earth before mankind, that is, of a time when animals and humans were not really distinct; beings were half-human and half-animal. All were extremely bothered by the winds, because the winds, especially the bad winds, were blowing all the time, making it impossible for them to fish and to gather shellfish on the beaches. So they decided that they had to fight the winds and compel them to behave more
position of the hare in the myth which I previously mentioned: crouching beneath the heroine when he hides under the log across her path, he is in respect to her exactly in the same position as if he had been born from her and delivered feet first. So we see that there is in all this mythology an actual relationship between twins on the one hand and delivery feet first or positions which are, metaphorically speaking, identical to it on the other. This obviously clears up the connection from which