Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory

Claude Levi Strauss The Poet in the Laboratory The definitive account of the life work and legacy of Claude L vi Strauss father of modern anthropology and one of the postwar era s most influential thinkers When Claude L vi Strauss passed away l

  • Title: Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory
  • Author: Patrick Wilcken
  • ISBN: 9781594202735
  • Page: 388
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The definitive account of the life, work, and legacy of Claude L vi Strauss, father of modern anthropology and one of the postwar era s most influential thinkers When Claude L vi Strauss passed away last October at age 100, France celebrated the life and contributions of not only a preeminent anthropologist, but also one of the defining intellectuals of the twentieth c The definitive account of the life, work, and legacy of Claude L vi Strauss, father of modern anthropology and one of the postwar era s most influential thinkers When Claude L vi Strauss passed away last October at age 100, France celebrated the life and contributions of not only a preeminent anthropologist, but also one of the defining intellectuals of the twentieth century Just as Freud had shaken up the antiquarian discipline of psychiatry, so had L vi Strauss revolutionized anthropology, transforming it from the colonial era study of exotic tribes to one consumed with fundamental questions about the nature of humanity and civilization itself Remarkably, there has never been a biography in English of the enigmatic Claude L vi Strauss Drawing on a welter of original research and interviews with the anthropologist, Patrick Wilcken s Claude L vi Strauss fills this void In rich detail, Wilcken re creates L vi Strauss s peripatetic life his groundbreaking fieldwork in some of the remotest reaches of the in the 1930s his years as a Jew in Nazi occupied France and as an migr in wartime New York and his return to Paris in the late 1940s, where he clashed with Jean Paul Sartre and fundamentally influenced fellow postwar thinkers from Jacques Lacan to Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes It was in France that structuralism, the school of thought he founded, first took hold, creating waves far beyond the field of anthropology In his heyday, L vi Strauss was both a hero to contemporary intellectuals and an international celebrity In Claude L vi Strauss, Wilcken gives the reader a fascinating intellectual tour of the anthropologist s landmark works Tristes Tropiques, a literary meditation on his travels and fieldwork The Savage Mind, which showed that primitive people are driven by the same intellectual curiosities as their Western counterparts and finally his monumental four volume Mythologiques, a study of the universal structures of native mythology in the Americas In the years that L vi Strauss published these pioneering works, Wilcken observes, tribal societies seemed to hold the answers to the most profound questions about the human mind Following the great anthropologist from S o Paulo to the Brazilian interior, and from New York to Paris, Patrick Wilcken s Claude L vi Strauss is both an evocative journey and an intellectual biography of one of the twentieth century s most influential minds.

    One thought on “Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory”

    1. If there was one reason why I tend to shy away from biographies, it would be because many biographers tend to be either hagiographers or attack dog hacks. Patrick Wilcken’s biography of Claude Levi-Strauss, maybe the most influential anthropologist of the twentieth century, avoids both of these. The result is a beautiful book that takes Levi-Strauss seriously and gives him the due consideration he deserves, but never becomes obsequious toward its subject. Aside from presenting the arch of Levi [...]

    2. Where did structuralism go? And for that matter where did it come from? Anyone who encountered it (as I did in the 70s) and wants to know more can learn a lot from this biography of its chief exponent, anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who became a veritable mythic figure as the result of a succession of works ranging from Tristes Tropiques (1955) through his dense, four-volume analysis of Amerindian myths, collectively known as the Mythologiques (1969–81).I won’t attempt to summarize the [...]

    3. In the middle of the intersection of psychoanalysis, linguistics, and critical theory stands Levi-Strauss, tightening his scarf in the breeze and and quietly saying "yes" to the swirl about him. Starting with an anthropological expedition to Brazil in the 1930's, Wilcken tells of Levi-Strauss' growth and the development of those three, key disciplines through the twentieth century. This book is for anyone who has mused on the weaving of vibrant cultural fabrics, and mourned the gray flannel we r [...]

    4. A skeptical yet appreciative look at Levi-Strauss' work. “Structuralism was, however, a strange kind of science, one that built its proofs out of poetic interpretations and refused definitive conclusions at every turn.” 283 He did remarkably little field work for such a famous anthropologist. But his work still managed to bring forth interesting ideas. Structuralism seems to me a heuristic device--what I call a "toy for thinking."

    5. Patrick Wilcken's biography enables us to experience structuralism from its inception. Here we see Claude Levi-Strauss, not as a revered intellectual icon but as a working anthropologist, jumping in and out of canoes much the same way that Jacques Lacan jumped in and out of taxi cabs. In the process, he discovers the sweeping patterns that under-gird the human psyche, the binary patterns that apply to all of intellectual life, from digital technology to spoken language. He leaves the collection [...]

    6. A great example of successfully blending straight autobiography with intellectual history. Not only do you get a 'behind the scenes' look at the fieldwork that led to Levi-Strauss' Tristes Tropiques, but Wilcken does an excellent job of tracing Levi-Strauss' work throughout his career and its connection/interaction with other philosophical and cultural bodies of thought, including surrealism, existentialism, and post-structuralism.

    7. The book is a subtle biography not so much of the man's life (though there's that too), but his thought, how it evolved, twisted, and even contradicted itself. What a wonderfully gifted and complex thinker he was. I've long appreciated and even enjoyed Levi-Strauss's writing. Now I feel I've been let in on the back story. Anyone interested in Levi-Strauss and his legacy ought to read this book.

    8. The biographer writes with an enchanting lyricism and a natural flair for the dramatic. Wonderfully paced, rigorous and adept at setting Strauss solidly within (and without) his intellectual legacy. A must for fans of structuralism and this philosophical heavyweight.

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