THE JEALOUS POTTER by Claude Levi-Strauss


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Lucid, frequently witty new work from the French anthropologist and leading exponent of structuralism, reiterating and developing his view that cultures systematically order the elements of phenomena into mythical patterns, and that structural similarities underlie all cultures. This time out, LÉvi-Strauss focuses on forest and savanna social groups of America to illuminate the ""analogies of structure and content"" between myths of different cultures, clarifying the internal logic of myths and showing the differences between structural analysis and psychoanalysis. The organizing motif here--and it's an intentionally playful one--is the mythic pattern underlying the craft of pottery. This leads to curious revelations, including why South American myths associate the goatsucker bird with the origins of clay, and to parallels between indigenous Southern Californian and South American sloth myths. In the process, LÉvi-Strauss applies the ""canonical formula"" he developed in 1955, a method used to represent the phenomenon of mythic transformation and upholding his view that a primitive schematism is universally present, imposing a form on emotions. The capping touch, however, is saved for the final chapter, where the anthropologist offers a subtle, thoroughly enjoyable dismantling of Freud and the psychoanalytical method. LÉvi-Strauss suggests that Freud's Totem and Taboo has a precursor in a primitive Jivaro myth; and, while acknowledging Freud's achievement in uncovering a psycho-organic code, holds that Freud failed to recognize that myths activate several codes, and that the rules of interpretation derive from logical relations between codes. An accessible case study in structuralism that is by turns controversial, playful, and illuminating.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0226474801
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press