Society Is The Determining Agent For Levi-Strauss

But Who Fathered The First Mother?

Using the concept of binary opposition, Levi-Strauss analyzes the Greek Oedipus
myth into its constituent parts. For Levi-Strauss, the problem of the
relationship of these parts becomes resolved in the third level of semiological
analysis, i.e., the continuum of successive and related oppositions. For
instance, he tells us that, in order to analyze a myth, we should isolate and
identify its constituent units, and that we should write down these units, in
the form of sentences, on multiple small cards. These sentences should describe
a certain function as it relates to a subject at a particular time, as in the
case of “Kadmos kills the dragon” in the Oedipus myth. When we group these cards
according to common relationships we not only get the myths diachronic meaning
(a record of events as they occur in the story), we also get the myths
synchronic meaning (the “langue” side of myth– its structure frozen in time).
By using this technique (Strauss compares this technique to reading an orchestra
score sheet the harmony part of which is read vertically while the melody is
read horizontally) the synchronic and diachronic levels of mythological meaning
come into view, thus Levi-Strauss tells us: “There-from comes a new hypothesis
which constitutes the very core of our argument: the true constituent units of a
myth are not the isolated relations but bundles of such relations and it is
only as bundles that these relations can be put to use and combined so as to
produce a meaning.”[Ibid. p. 293]

In his essay on myth, Levi-Strauss, goes on to identify the bundles of
relations that define the Oedipus myth and he comes up with an interpretation of
the myth that is supposed to show how man, through his mythology, copes with the
enigmas and inconsistencies which occur in nature, e.g., birth/death, the
cultural answer to origins as opposed to biological answers, etc. To sum up,
Levi-Strauss’s analysis of myth plays one group of binary opposites over and
against another group of binary opposites in the belief that, on some level,
conflicting opposites tend to neutralize one another, or, at the very least,
make myth and myth making a lively, productive and ongoing utilitarian
experience. But, after all is said and done, the question, “Who fathered the
first mother?” still persists.


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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