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.
CLAUDE LÉVI-STRAUSS was a leading social anthropologist and the author of Myth and Meaning: Cracking the Code of Culture, The Elementary Structures of Kinship, Tristes Tropiques, Totemism, The Savage Mind, The Raw and the Cooked, From Honey to Ashes, and Structural… More about Claude Levi-Strauss
“If someone who had just heard Lévi-Strauss’s name for the first time asked me to explain . . . what he was all about, I would pick up Myth and Meaning and start reading it out loud . . . Only here does one have a lucid, candid, personal exposition of the major ideas that have driven him all his life.” —from the Foreword by Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago
“There is no easier or quicker way than through this book into that heart of darkness Lévi-Strauss calls the ‘totalitarian ambition of the savage mind’ as it throbs beneath the surface of the ‘civilized’ mind.” —Philip Rieff, Professor of Psychiatry, Medical College of Pennsylvania
“‘If in the end you cannot tell everyone what you have been up to, your life’s work has been in vain,’ Edwin Schrödenger told us. In this eloquently slim volume, Lévi-Strauss delivers on Schrödinger’s implied request exquisitely. If every major thinker could summarize his or her conclusions this clearly, the fragmentation that threatens to reduce understanding to incoherence would be tempered considerably.” —Huston Smith, University, Berkeley, and author of Forgotten Truth and Beyond the Post-Modern Mind