The Structural Aproach To Myth Essay

2453 words - 10 pages

What are the principal strengths and weaknesses of structural analyses of myths? (S Fogarty) The study of myth is a much disputed area of academia, primarily because the subject can be studied from so many points of view, and is of interest to a plethora of scholarly subjects: psychological, anthropological, sociological, and religious studies all take a great deal of interest in the subject. Also, the very nature of myth is at question: there have been many definitions of myth and its role within culture and society, from the view of myth as a remnant of the unconscious, to the view of myth as a form of communication. There is also a central problem when dealing with myth, that of incongruity: many cultures have myths that would appear to be mutually exclusive, for example two entirely different creation myths, and yet these myths are continually accepted despite the oddity. Myth is a very complicated subject to examine, but the development of the field in modern times has been swift and highly productive. The key developments of the modern study of myth have been, firstly, the realisation of the importance of myth to both primitive and modern cultures, secondly the development of psychological theory in regard to myth, and thirdly, the "˜structural theory of myth propounded by the great French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss.' This theory, complicated to say the least, centres on the belief that myth contains a kind of universal structure, and is at least as important as language as a tool of communication. This is the theory of Levi-Strauss, and will be the central point of discussion of this essay. It is necessary, for the purposes of this essay, to briefly outline the theory of structuralism, and its origin: I will then move on and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the theory, with reference to several other schools of thought.Claude Levi-Strauss had his background in the field of anthropology, and thus was primarily interested in various cultures and societies, specifically primitive cultures. His early anthropological works, such as "˜The Elementary Structures of Kinship' focussed on kinship ritual and relations, a standard anthropological study. Levi-Strauss' work on the structuralist theory, it must be noted here, is heavily indebted, by his own admission, to the work of Jakobson and of Saussure, both notable linguists, whose interests centred about the structure of language itself, specifically in the "˜intimate relationship between structural analysis and dialectical method'. The most important concept to come out of Levi-Strauss' interpretation of the work of these two linguists is the concept of the eternal struggle of opposites, which we shall see further, the battle between youth and age, male and female, man and animal. It is through this work that Levi-Strauss developed his theory of "˜structuralism'. In this work he states that kinship relations, an essential and fundamental "˜aspect of any...

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