The structural Study of Myth and Totemism

In our todays Book-feature is “The structural Study of Myth and Totemism” Edited by Edmund Leach. Published by Tavistock Publications in 1967 in London.

This volume concentrate on two main themes: the study of myth and totemism. Starting with an English translation of La Geste d’Asdiwal, which is widely considered to be the most brilliant of all of Lévi-Strauss’s shorter expositions of his technique of myth analysis, the volume also contains criticism of this essay. The second part of the volume discusses how far Lévi-Strauss’s treatment of totemism as a system of category formation can be correlated with the facts that an ethnographer encounters in the field.

Levi Strauss covers gigantic areas of ethnographic space in a very limited number of words. It often appears therefore, that he selects his facts and makes intuitive judgements in a very arbitrary way. The Englishmen with his empiricist bias is always likely to feel haunted by the question ‘Yes, this is all very well, but what if all the facts (or only different facts) were taken into account?’

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