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Myth and Ideology

Edited By Cyril Levitt and Sabine Sander

This posthumously published work by Lawrence Krader surveys the study of myths from ancient times (in classical Greece and Rome, Egypt, Babylon, Akkad, Sumer, China), in the Biblical traditions, of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australia, and from Northeastern and Central Asia. It also covers the various approaches to the study of myth in Europe in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and the Romantic movement in the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth century; it discusses evolutionist, structuralist, hermeneutic, and linguistic approaches. The book covers on the one hand the treatment of myth from the inside, that is from the experience of those committed to the myth, and on the other the perspective of those ethnologists, philosophers and other students of myth who are outsiders. Krader takes up the theme of esoteric and exoteric myths as he rejects some of the assumptions and approaches to the study of myth from the past while singling out others for approval and inclusion in his general theory of myth. The book includes a discussion of myth in science and in infinitesimal mathematics. It also considers the relationship between myth and ideology in the twentieth century in relation to politics and power. It both incorporates and broadens Krader’s theory of nature as a manifold consisting of different orders of space-time which he developed in his magnum opus Noetics: The Science of Thinking and Knowing.

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8 Structuralists, Lévi-Strauss, Leach


Claude Lévi-Strauss has written as a structuralist about myth, having given his closest attention to this field over an extended period, primarily in the publication of Mythologiques.1 He is known for his structural study of kinship2, and for his works, Tristes Tropiques and La pensée sauvage, which are admired for their stylistic mastery as well as for their content. His studies of myth were announced by a programmatic article;3 they have been continued down to the present in a recent article.4 His own work among the Bororo Indians of Brazil, and his close readings of the reports of fieldwork of Franz Boas constitute the chief foundations for his studies of myth, to which he added readings in the myths of classical antiquity, and in the ethnographic literature.

The notion of structure has many meanings; it may mean a building element, such as a base or frame, in construction of an edifice or a theory; it may be the constant in relation to which other elements are variable; or it may be the timeless in opposition to that which is historical or evolutionary; it is sometimes thought of as the synchronic as opposed to the diachronic. It is in the last meaning that I will understand the term for thus it has gotten some consensus.5 The myth is thus abstracted from time and history by structuralists.

In his paper, “The Structural Study of Myth,”6 Lévi-Strauss wrote that a myth is made up...

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