Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lévi-Strauss Dead at 100

The bulletin just arrived from Le Monde. The influence of Claude Lévi-Strauss on French intellectual life is a subject worth dwelling on, but this is not the place. In some ways too much was always made of his role. The title of the book with which he first made his mark, Les Structures élémentaires de la parenté, provided a word, "structure," which became an emblem for all sorts of things that should never have been yoked together, but given the slapdash way in which intellectual "movements" are often conjured up out of very little more than ragtag platoons of irregulars, the word, and the "mythology" of "structuralism," if I may put it that way, colored the way in which a whole generation came of age intellectually.

A more rigorous history of the age will probably reduce Lévi-Strauss's role considerably, and his work was never received with the same warmth outside France as inside it--where his elegant style and grand public works such as Tristes tropiques greatly broadened his readership. Still, he was a formidable mind, who left his mark and initiated a number of important debates, not least with Sartre, who was born only four years earlier but, in the realm of symbolism, stands for the generation that Lévi-Strauss and his epigones dethroned.

Three video mementos here.


FRANCIS said...

Yet :
1) "The raw, the cooked and Claude Lévi-Strauss"

If it weren't for the great anthropologist, who has died aged 100, I would never have learned a radical new way of looking at art history.


2) Leading article: An anthropologist for our age


FRANCIS said...

I was too fast and forgot :

Claude Levi-Strauss: Intellectual considered the father of modern anthropology whose work inspired structuralism


Unknown said...

"In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath." -- Dr. Johnson