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Myth and Meaning

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  763 ratings  ·  50 reviews
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, t ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published March 14th 1995 by Schocken (first published 1977)
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Shaun and his mom were baking a strawberry-rhubarb pie using garden rhubarb and my mother's recipe, and I was hungry. Dinner could not be made because the kitchen was in use, and I would eat half a pie if I didn't eat something before it was done, so I formulated a plan to eat a calzone from Calabrias. Execution of my plan was interrupted by an unexpected Father's day closing of that establishment, so I reformulated and headed towards Spak. The GPAC door was open, so I dropped in an chatted with ...more
Maria Maniaci
This was a fun read. It's a tiny little book, and the writing is straightforward and easy to understand. I love his ideas about myth, about how they're like music, how both myth and music diverge from language and why. A good primer for his theories.
As part of a course in mythology, this book would be more powerful than it is when read in isolation.

The great anthropologist gives all too few examples to back up his theories. After a solid foreward Wendy Doniger, we are treated to what are essentially the cleaned-up transcripts of radio talks Levi-Strauss gave in 1977. If you can make it through the first third, you will find the last two-thirds much stronger, with nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout and insight added when he tests his the
John David
This book consists of five talks given on the CBC Radio series “Ideas” in December 1977, with a short introduction from religious scholar Wendy Doniger from the University of Chicago. The names of the lectures themselves won’t provide but the barest of insight into the material that Levi-Strauss covers, but since there are only five, I will name them here. They are 1) “The Meeting of Myth and Science,” 2) “‘Primitive’ Thinking and the ‘Civilized’ Mind,” 3) “Harelips and Twins: The Splitting of M ...more
Mutlu Cankay
Giriş kısmında yazarın biyografisi ele alınmış. Ardından "Avrupamerkezci" yaklaşım eleştirisi ile yazarın görüşlerinin özetine yer verilmiş. Avrupa'ya hakim olan İlkel / Uygar ikiliğine vurulan son darbelerin yazara ait olduğu belirtilmiş. Geleneksel antropolojinin hatasının unsurlara odaklanmak ve unsurlararası ilişkileri gözden kaçırması olduğu vurgulanmış. Anlam kendi başına değil sadece ilişki içinde var olabilir diyen yazar, bütün kültürlerin esasen gösterge sistemleri olduğunu ifade etmiş. ...more
Myth and Meaning is not the survey (or gloss) of Lévi-Strauss' thought that I hoped it would be. Rather, it is a more Zen-like series of observations on how the great anthropologist conceived of the subjects, mixing hope for scientific progress (which Lévi-Strauss saw as growing increasingly comprehensive and ultimately embracing the meanings that pre-literate societies gave to physical phenomena) with blunt realizations that history has replaced myth as literacy has replaced oral transmission. ...more
Bradd Saunders
Levi-Strauss calls himself a structuralist and he is, seeing beyond the surface to the simple, hidden anatomy of all kinds of disparate things which in the end prove not to be so disparate after all. The value of reading people like this is in that they teach you new ways to think, they are never satisfied with the first and most simple reason for events that we all know, deep down, isn't quite as true as we would like it to be. As someone who writes novels, there is an interesting idea in one o ...more
Sep 26, 2011 Erin marked it as to-read
"Today, we use less and we use more of our mental capacity than we did in the past. We have sacrificed perceptual capabilities for other mental abilities--to concentrate on a computer screen while sitting in a cubicle for many hours at a stretch (something those Indians would find 'utterly impossible and incredible'), or to shut off multiple levels of awareness as we drive a car in heavy traffic. In other words, we are brought up within a system that teaches us to postpone, defer, and eliminate ...more
Dylan Littler
An excellent explanation of how to understand mythology. This work fits into the structuralist tradition, advocating the idea that myths should only be understood in relation to each other, rather than isolating them. Contrasts myth and music in their departure from language: music stresses sound, where myth stresses meaning. Myth in his work is seen as a way of expressing things that we now express through science and history.
Doniger's claims in the forward that this was a good introduction to Levi-Strauss are just not true. Instead, in reality her introduction here serves as a much better intro to Levi-Strauss than this book of five brief chapters formed out of answers in English to an interviewer from the CBC. Levi-Strauss is too sure of the scientific and too constraining to the mythological. He calls the latter false, even while claiming it operates differently from the scientific. His structuralism can tell wond ...more
This short book gives a brief introduction to Levi-Strauss's work on mythology and a brief introduction to his methodology. What it fails to do is demonstrate what the significance is of his analyses. He produces a "meaning" though myth that otherwise remains hidden, but what is the ultimate significance of the meaning produced? Does that meaning supplant the use of those myths in the real worlds of human life, or are we to interpret it as an addendum... as just something else one should keep in ...more
TK Keanini
I asked a buddy to recommend a few books on Anthropology and he turned me on to Claude Levi-Strauss. Very interesting reading and a few useful patterns to toss in your bag of tricks.
Andrew Calderon
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Not assigned reading for my Literary Theory seminar, but a short book related to a paper topic (a structuralist interpretation of Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily").

In some ways it seems very Christian to say that order is better than disorder, and that deep structures are embedded into our existence. I think, however, that it's similar to the "Christian-ness" of an atheist's desire for morality: If there's no accounting for it, it's not very useful.

I have to admit, I'm really attracted to this kind
First things first. I need to learn French. I think everybody should learn French. And Russian.

Myth and Meaning is a slim compilation of 5 essays of Claude Levi-Strauss. On subjects such as 'primitive' thinking vs scientific/ 'modern' thinking, mythology when it becomes history, mythology and music...and so on.

Levi Strauss was a staunch believer in diversity of cultures, although in his work as a structuralist, he states that everything, however diverse, including mythologies, can be reduced to
When can you ever get an author of complex methodological theory to summarize and explain his own work? This book offers all the benefits of a Cliffs Notes on Structuralism without fear of distortion by interpretation from another author. It has many quotables and answers some questions, such as 'what is the relationship of structuralism to science' in a very direct manner. The introductory essay is also worthwhile and gives some context to the book as a series of lectures patched together from ...more
A fascinating take on myth. Levi-Strauss' passion for anthropology is so strongly conveyed in this series of lectures that in it lies much of the strength of the text - and the final section, dealing with music (not his primary field of interest) is correspondingly the weakest of them all.
Myth and Meaning is well worth a read even if you aren't a wholesale supporter of structuralism. While I certainly don't see the world in the same way as Levi-Strauss, I found the book really interesting - pe
Oct 11, 2009 nanto marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Sudah terbaca tiga bab dari lima babnya. Sebuah transkrip dari wawancara dengan Levi-Strauss yang tak ada hubungannya dengan merk celana jeans itu. Buku terjemahan dengan halaman tipis ini, 52 halaman saja, tentunya cocok untuk awalan memasuki khasanah pemikirannya. Terutama tentang apa yang kerap dilekatkan pada namanya, Antropologi Struktralisme.

Bab 1 berbicara pertemuan mitos dan sains, bab 2 berbicara berbicara tentang pemikiran "primitif" dan penalaran beradab. Bab ketiga berbicara tentang
Simon Bailey
Given that I disagree fundamentally with Levi-Strauss's position on the nature of being and of society, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this and as a very concise introduction to his thought along with some pithy definitions of structure, function and his 'logic of the concrete', it is very useful. I found it particularly insightful to read this alongside both Barthes and Latour, drawing out the similarities, and appreciating the differences. Barthes himself said something to the effect th ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
In a series of interview transcripts, Levi-Strauss outlines his structuralist approach to mythology, demonstrates it with an analysis of American legends regarding twins, hares and harelips and explains how shared yet convergent myth-patterns work using Canadian myths as an example. All this is fascinating and often illuminating, whetting my appetite for more. His analysis of mythology and history as different versions of the same endeavor is intriguing. Levi-Strauss' argument hinges on the ques ...more
Anna Sircova
It's a great introduction to the theory that Levi-Strauss has developed. Since it is based on the series of radio interviews the language is quite easy to understand and the examples given really help to understand the basics of his approach to myths.
There are great illustrations on how myth becomes history or how two different histories can still be true. Quite relevant for the modern times as well. We should never forget that there is a particular context in which events take place and there
Smallest Tiger
This is, as it says, just an introduction to some of Levi-Strauss' ideas. I was hoping for a bit more depth, but it is essentially a transcript of radio lectures that he had given. For more of his actual work see other books.
Firas Jabbour
محاولات جادة لتوضيح حدود أساسية من أجل دراسات وطروحات تحليلية أعمق للميثولوجيا.. جوانب ومناظير متعددة لمنهج تحليل نقدي للنص من أجل إعادة تفكيك وتركيب البنية النصية واستكشاف ماهو خلف القصة الظاهرة
كتاب مفتاحي هام..
Worth the hype. An easy, fluid style of prose; and a flair for images and memory for stories....this is definitely a good start for those who are interested in Mythology as a subject.
Mary Ellen
Levi Strauss (only distantly related to the jeans) is a stuctural anthropologist, who here clearly explains how he looks for order behind disorder, and how he doesn't think we can find meaning without order.

I read some of his work in Wendy Graham's Lit Theory class, but I'll level with you, about 95% of that went over my head until now.

One of his more interesting chapters goes over how he doesn't believe in a binary between "primitive" and "civilized" - he thinks the distinction is more accurat
Carl Johnson
A small book of essays that demonstrate the underlying symbolic reasoning linking apparently random associations. Levi-Strauss observes, for example, that the fearful association of storms with rabbits, harelips, and twins in the Andes is rooted in a fear of the unnatural splitting of entities. In this case, twins are considered imbued with the principle of splitting and therefore capable of provoking storms, which are viewed as cloud-splitting; harelips are quasi-twins, as are the rabbits for w ...more
Originally an interview book in which CSL analyzes mythology with his structuralist approach. Levi-Strauss had remarkable theories on twins in these books, but he had some theories that seems to be unintelligible, he accepts myth as a proto-history, history of the societies. He, nevertheless, has good reasons to consider myths as a historical source, i agree with this idea. Then he claims that German classic music tradition created new mythology for modern world, same ideas can be observed in to ...more
I find Claude Levi-Strauss really difficult. I don't understand how fish & windy days are necessarily associated with binary problems - I understand how he's taking them but I don't understand how he's concluded that therein lies their significance. All his analyses read to me as being impositions, attesting to his ingenuity in interpretation more than anything else.

Shelf: ouch my brain.
This book is made up of 5 chapters. I was only interested in the first, having to do with science, and the last having to do with music. I am somehow familiar with the premise of the book, yet feel that this collection/curation of CBC radio casts is rushed and not very well constructed. The author remains the most prominent in his field and this book bears no judgement on that.
Amy Sawyer
Ok, I haven't read a philosophy book since college, so I was a little concerned when my MFA professor put 4 philosophy books on my reading list this semester. This one came first in the mail and I finished it this weekend. Very interesting collection of essays on how the "structures" of myths reoccur in different societies. So glad to use my thinking brain again.
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Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist, well-known for his development of structural anthropology. He was born on November 28, 1908 in Belgium as the son of an artist, and a member of an intellectual French Jewish family. Lévi-Strauss studied at the University of Paris. From 1935-9 he was Professor at the University of Sao Paulo making several expeditions to central Brazil. Between 1942-1 ...more
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Tristes Tropiques The Savage Mind Structural Anthropology The Raw and the Cooked (Mythologiques, Vol 1) Race et histoire

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