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Hang Santa

Wendy Doniger, 16 December 1993

Unwrapping Christmas 
edited by Daniel Miller.
Oxford, 239 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 19 827903 5
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... The authors of this collection of essays are social anthropologists who follow the structuralist Claude Lévi-Strauss, literally – an essay by him comes first, after Daniel Miller’s introduction – and, in varying degrees, intellectually. What they discover when they unwrap Christmas present – Christmas now, throughout the world – are the human structures of the cover-up, disguising, beneath a number of hilarious cultural transformations, a tragic opposition between the glittery surface and the dark heart of Christmas ...

Men’s Work

Adam Kuper: Lévi-Strauss, 24 June 2004

Claude Lévi-StraussThe Formative Years 
by Christopher Johnson.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £40, February 2003, 0 521 01667 3
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... in the houses of wealthy patrons. Artists, writers, philosophers and scientists shared a world. Claude Lévi-Strauss was the son of an artist, and two of his uncles were painters who had their moments of fame. Trained as a philosopher, he made it his ambition to turn anthropology into a natural science, but all his life he was immersed in the ...

The Sober Science

Mark Lilla, 20 April 1995

German Ideology: From France to Germany and Back 
by Louis Dumont.
Chicago, 259 pp., £25.95, March 1995, 0 226 16952 9
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... became prominent in the wake of the Wirtschaftswunder, while the structural anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss spoke to French misgivings about the colonial experience. In both countries these disciplines became as much means of engaging in politics as sciences for studying it. The age of structuralisms is past in France, yet anthropology ...

Jottings, Scraps and Doodles

Adam Shatz: Lévi-Strauss, 3 November 2011

Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory 
by Patrick Wilcken.
Bloomsbury, 375 pp., £30, November 2011, 978 0 7475 8362 2
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... Austere, prickly, solitary, Claude Lévi-Strauss is the least fashionable, and most influential, of the postwar French theorists. Lévi-Straussians are a nearly extinct tribe in Anglo-American universities, far outnumbered by Foucauldians, Derrideans and Deleuzians. But, in a paradox he might have enjoyed, his imprint has been deeper ...

Naming of Dogs

Edmund Leach, 20 March 1986

The View from Afar 
by Claude Lévi-Strauss, translated by Joachim Neugroschel and Phoebe Hoss.
Blackwell, 311 pp., £19.50, June 1985, 0 631 13966 4
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... In their French editions the titles and covers of Lévi-Strauss’s books are often designed to tease as well as to inform. They deserve attention. Tristes Tropiques is about tropes as well as tropics; Mythologiques is about odd kinds of logic as well as mythology; La Pensée Sauvage carried on its cover a picture of a wild pansy which should have warned the English publisher that The Savage Mind was hardly an adequate translation even if the author chose the latter title himself ...

Theories of Myth

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 19 March 1981

Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual 
by Walter Burkert.
California, 226 pp., £9, April 1980, 0 520 03771 5
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Myth and Society in Ancient Greece 
by Jean-Pierre Vernant, translated by Janet Lloyd.
Harvester, 242 pp., £24, February 1980, 9780391009158
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... the vagueness of its concept of a symbol. Far more in the public eye at present is the theory of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Influenced by Durkheim and Mauss, and acting on the analogy of the structural linguistics initiated by de Saussure, he finds a second meaning which may be more significant than the surface sense in the ordered arrangement of the ...

Pairs

Maurice Bloch, 5 May 1983

The Way of the Masks 
by Claude Lévi-Strauss, translated by Sylvia Modelski.
Cape, 249 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 224 02081 1
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... One of the most disconcerting aspects of introducing the work of Lévi-Strauss to students is that those who are just beginning an anthropology course often seem able to grasp quickly and easily the main points of his work, while those who have a good anthropological training seem almost invariably incapable of understanding what he is saying ...

Joseph Jobson

Patrick Wormald, 18 April 1985

Saladin in his Time 
by P.H. Newby.
Faber, 210 pp., £10.95, November 1983, 0 571 13044 5
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Soldiers of the Faith: Crusaders and Moslems at War 
by Ronald Finucane.
Dent, 247 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 460 12040 9
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... Claude Lévi-Strauss and others have been in the habit of describing the expansion of European civilisation as an unmitigated catastrophe for the rest of mankind. It is arguable that not the least of its casualties has been the West’s sense of its own limitations. From the conquest of Mexico and Peru until 1941 (at the earliest), Europe’s onward march seemed unstoppable, fuelled as it was by a combination of immeasurably superior technology and an ineffable sense of cultural superiority ...

Northern Lights

Chauncey Loomis, 2 June 1988

Living Arctic: Hunters of the Canadian North 
by Hugh Brody.
Faber, 254 pp., £4.95, November 1987, 0 571 15096 9
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... than any four-letter word. Under the severe tutelage of anthropologists and in the long shadow of Claude Lévi-Strauss, we are losing our cultural arrogance – or, perhaps the same thing, our cultural innocence. A good thing, too: the main point of innocence is to lose it, and this particular innocence deserves to be lost. Ethnocentrism has taken ...

Djojo on the Corner

Benedict Anderson, 24 August 1995

After the Fact: Two Countries, Four Decades, One Anthropologist 
by Clifford Geertz.
Harvard, 198 pp., £17.95, April 1995, 0 674 00871 5
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... generation were born in the decade 1901-11: Margaret Mead (1901), Edward Evans-Pritchard (1902), Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908), Edmund Leach (1910), Louis Dumont and Max Gluckman (1911). They were formed in the age of Hitler and Stalin, and, in the cases of France and Britain, of impending imperial decline. The last generation came to adulthood during ...

Don’t do it!

Wendy Doniger: Dick Francis, 15 October 1998

Field of 13 
by Dick Francis.
Joseph, 273 pp., £16.99, September 1998, 0 7181 4351 5
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... celebrated the new Francis novel. A Francis novel is a story composed of recycled fragments, what Claude Lévi-Strauss called mythemes (we call them clichés when they occur in bad films and novels), which the author constantly shuffles and reassembles through a process of bricolage. Francis novels are ritualistic even in the masks they wear: the covers ...
Adventures on the Freedom Road: The French Intellectuals in the 20th Century 
by Bernard-Henri Lévy, translated by Richard Veasey.
Harvill, 434 pp., £20, December 1995, 1 86046 035 6
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The Imaginary Jew 
by Alain Finkielkraut, translated by Kevin O’Neill and David Suchoff.
Nebraska, 230 pp., £23.95, August 1994, 0 8032 1987 3
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The Defeat of the Mind 
by Alain Finkielkraut, translated by Judith Friedlander.
Columbia, 165 pp., $15, May 1996, 0 231 08023 9
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... an intellectual is defined in reference to literature. However, as Lévy’s interview here with Claude Simon makes clear, in French cultural life today these are no longer competing, but simply different worlds: ‘the demise of the prophets’ after the Sixties also marks the end of a privileged connection between intellectuals and literature. This first ...
Structuralism and Since: From Lévi-Strauss to Derrida 
edited by John Sturrock.
Oxford, 190 pp., £5.50, January 1980, 0 19 215839 2
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... in its modern phase – from the moment when it achieved new importance in the work of Lévi-Strauss in the early Sixties, through its development and extensions in the work of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida, to its present position, which is known either as ‘post-structuralism’ or simply as ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... and Robert Byron. The scholarly version of these explorations is called anthropology, as in Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz, Margaret Mead, and many American scholars in receipt of sabbatical leave and Guggenheim fellowships. If you have a sufficiently resourceful mind, and a persuasive style, of course, you can stimulate them by going for a ...

At the Helm of the World

Pankaj Mishra: Alexander Herzen, 31 May 2017

The Discovery of Chance: The Life and Thought of Alexander Herzen 
by Aileen Kelly.
Harvard, 582 pp., £31.95, May 2016, 978 0 674 73711 2
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... not just as an abstract value but as a prerequisite for intellectual and aesthetic originality. Claude Lévi-Strauss, who defended premodern societies against accusations of backwardness, would have endorsed his view that ‘each phase of historical development has had its end in itself, and hence its own reward and satisfaction.’ Most ...

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