Saturday, November 29, 2008

Claude Lévi-Strauss

Yesterday was the 100th birthday of Claude Lévi-Strauss, the great French anthropologist. My only serious encounter with Lévi-Strauss came in a University of Chicago graduate course in which I read his difficult and fascinating book, The Savage Mind.

I am reminded that this is a book worth rereading. I remember being most struck by what Lévi-Strauss termed the "Neolithic Paradox" - the fact that it was in the supposedly primitive neolithic period that "man's mastery of the great arts of civilization - of pottery, weaving, agriculture, and the domestication of animals - became firmly established." Numerous other treasures abound as well, from the "science of the concrete," to the bricolage of mythical thought, to the surprising notion that the small-scale model might be the "universal type of the work of art."

My to-do list just got a bit longer...

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