Lévi-Strauss, Anthropology, and Aesthetics (Ideas in Context)

Lévi-Strauss, Anthropology, and Aesthetics (Ideas in Context)

Boris Wiseman

Language: English

Pages: 264

ISBN: 2:00228676

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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In a wide-ranging 2007 study of Claude Lévi-Strauss's aesthetic thought, Boris Wiseman demonstrates not only its centrality within his oeuvre but also the importance of Levi-Strauss for contemporary aesthetic enquiry. Reconstructing the internal logic of Lévi-Strauss's thinking on aesthetics, and showing how anthropological and aesthetic ideas intertwine at the most elemental levels in the elaboration of his system of thought, Wiseman demonstrates that Lévi-Strauss's aesthetic theory forms an integral part of his approach to Amerindian masks, body decoration and mythology. He reveals the significance of Lévi-Strauss's anthropological analysis of an 'untamed' mode of thinking (pensée sauvage) at work in totemism, classification and myth-making for his conception of art and aesthetic experience. In this way, structural anthropology is shown to lead to ethnoaesthetics. Lévi-Strauss, Anthropology and Aesthetics adopts a broad-ranging approach that combines the different perspectives of anthropology, philosophy, aesthetic theory and literary criticism into an unusual and imaginative whole.


"Wiseman's astonishingly thorough, sympathetic, and comprehensive study is a most persuasive tribute to the work of anthropology's towering centenarian." - Museum Anthropology Review

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of art, being the many colours, shapes and forms with which artists re-create the diversity of the world. Bringing out the connection between art and classification more explicitly still, Le´vi-Strauss writes: ‘classificatory schemes . . . allow the natural and social universe to be grasped as an organized whole’ (1966b: 135; 1962b: 164); which is also, arguably, one of the key functions of the work of art (although, of course, not its only one). It should be added that the conception of the work

fragments of experience may be illusory, but this does not detract from what Le´vi-Strauss perceives to be their essential value, namely to appease the anxiety that human beings feel when confronted with the essentially contingent nature of the world. In this respect, art and classification fulfil what one may call a ‘totalising function’, using the expression in a sense derived from Le´vi-Strauss (he uses a number of synonymous expressions), to designate a symbolic operation that is a response

Le´vi-Strauss, Anthropology and Aesthetics IDEAS IN CONTEXT Edited by Quentin Skinner and James Tully The books in this series will discuss the emergence of intellectual traditions and of related new disciplines. The procedures, aims and vocabularies that were generated will be set in the context of the alternatives available within the contemporary frameworks of ideas and institutions. Through detailed studies of the evolution of such traditions, and their modification by different

believe that the reasons Roque puts forward for doing so, in particular in his chapter V I I I (‘May One Speak of Signs?’), are the wrong ones, and are based, in part at least, on misreadings of Le´vi-Strauss’s works. More important in the context of the present chapter, Roque does not see the valuable insights that Le´vi-Strauss’s anthropological analysis of concrete logic provides for an understanding of an abstract pictorial language – a ‘grammar of line and colour’, as Roque puts it. Where

attentiveness to the complexity and variety of the sensible world. Le´vi-Strauss feels close to the northern tradition of realistic painting, born in Flanders at the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Golden Age of Van Eyck and van der Weyden. 132 Le´vi-Strauss, Anthropology and Aesthetics About these artists he writes: ‘[they] never tired of painting arrangements of folds in order to render, from the inside as it were, the countless ways in which a fabric falls’ (1987b: 249; 1983: 334,

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