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28.1.02

April-Lyn seems to like Claude Levi-Strauss, but I feel the need to criticize.

Structuralism isn't really my thing. It's really interesting to see how CLS is putting the myths together, but I wonder how accurate his final conclusions will be. He starts off with the assumption that all the Indians of Amazonia (and I believe in later books he extends his synthesis to North America as well) are part of a single unified system of thought. He grabs myths as he needs them, with little regard to what tribe or region they're from.

He also rejects (explicitly, at one point) the idea of historical particularism -- the idea that unique historical and situational circumstances, rather than a logical system, account for certain aspects of the world. Which is odd, as structuralism is based on an analogy with language, and any language is full of expressions and idioms and usages that, rather than being part of a coherent system, are the result of particular circumstances.

The other thing that gets to me is that he seems to be working almost entirely from the corpus of myths. He doesn't look into how those myths relate to the rest of the societies that tell them. It seems to me that you need to know what the role of the myth is in the society -- how it's used, where it's placed with relation to other myths, what group within the society owns it (many times societies will have myths that belong only to the men, for example, or to a certain lineage) -- if you hope to understand it.

It would be like trying to derive the Christian worldview from reading only the Bible. The differences between Christians on how to interpret different themes and passages can be pretty wide. And there's a great deal of non-Biblical tradition and influences from other religions that shapes the worldview and influences how the stories are used, even when it doesn't explicitly appear in them. For example, if you read the Bible with no outside knowledge of Christianity, you would not come away from it with the idea of Hell, which is central to mainstream Christian thought.

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