Lévi-Strauss, Anthropology, and Aesthetics (Ideas in Context)
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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
Perceval story, his interpretation reveals at work in painting a transformational dynamic that parallels that which we have already seen to be at the heart of the process of myth making. Poussin produced two paintings on the theme of the Arcadian Shepherds, the first around 1630, and the second five or six years later. The earlier of the two versions drew its inspiration directly from a painting by Guercino on the same theme, painted at the beginning of the 1620s. Le´vi-Strauss argues that the
for rare objects. Since that day, he has maintained with them, as he puts it, ‘the most intimate of relations’ (2003: 7). It was this gift, in other words, that turned Le´vi-Strauss into a collector. As an adult, Le´vi-Strauss went on to assemble two collections of ethnographic objects for the Muse´e de l’Homme, the first made up mainly of Caduveo and Bororo objects brought back from his 1936 expedition, the second of Nambikwara and Tupi-Kawahib objects, brought back from his 1938 expedition
understanding essentially as the overcoming of a discontinuity, i.e. as a ‘making whole’. At yet another level, this gesture is visible in his materialism. Le´vi-Strauss believes that the structures that he uncovers in social reality reflect unconscious structures in the mind, which are themselves rooted in the biological functioning of the brain (the sense organs mediating between the two). In principle, the end point of any structural interpretation – although it is doubtful that any actual
and understanding. In this context, one can see why Le´vi-Strauss, throughout his works, so closely associates the figure of the artist with that of the bricoleur. The bricoleur is someone who works with his hands (1966b: 16; 1962b: 30) and in the process elaborates an artisan form of knowledge. The artist is a bricoleur for whom intellectual understanding is dependent on an act of fabrication, a thinker who subordinates theoretical understanding to the making of an object. His/her domain is that
means of transcending this ontological presupposition and view art as one of the means of creating the nature/culture divide, which is itself an ‘artefact’, a structure invented by ‘culture’ or, as Philippe Descola (2004) has recently shown, by certain cultures. One may sum up the arguments that precede by saying that this book makes the case for an ethno-aesthetics, i.e. a decentred aesthetics informed by anthropology.4 It tries to show, furthermore, that Le´vi-Strauss’s works provide a rich