Lévi-Strauss and Myth: Some Informal Notes

26 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2020

Date Written: June 21, 2011


This is a series of informal notes on the structuralist method Lévi-Strauss used in Mythologiques. What’s essential to the method is to treat narratives in comparison with one another rather than in isolation. By analyzing and describing ensembles of narratives, Lévi-Strauss was able to indicate mental “deep structures.” In this comparing Lévi-Strauss was able to see more than he could explain. I extend the method to Robert Greene’s Pandosto, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, and Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. I discuss how Lévi-Strauss was looking for a way to objectify mental structures, but failed; and I suggest that the notion of computation will be central to any effort that goes beyond what Lévi-Strauss did. I conclude by showing how work on Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” finally led me beyond the limitations of structuralism and into cognitive science.

Keywords: narrative, myth, anthropology, cognition, narratology, semiotics

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., Lévi-Strauss and Myth: Some Informal Notes (June 21, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1869308 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1869308

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