The Jealous Potter / Edition 2

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As Lévi-Strauss freely explores the mythologies of the Americas, with occasional incursions into European and Japanese folklore, tales of sloths and squirrels interweave with discussions of Freud, Saussure, "signification," and plays by Sophocles and Labiche. Lévi-Strauss critiques psychoanalytic interpretation and defends the interpretive powers of structuralism.

"Electrifying. . . . A brilliant demonstration of structural analysis in action. . . . Can be read with pleasure and profit by anyone interested in that aspect of self-discovery that comes through knowledge of the universal and timeless myths that live on in all of us."—Jonathan Sharp, San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

"A characteristic tour de force. . . . One remains awed by him."—Colin Thubron, Sunday Times

"With all its epistemological depth, the book reads at times like a Simenon or a Lewis Carroll, fusing concise methodology with mastery of style."—Bernadette Bucher, American Ethnologist

"[An] engagingly provocative exploration of mythology in the Americas. . . . Always a good read."—Choice

"A playful, highly entertaining book, fluently and elegantly translated by Bénédicte Chorier."—Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, New York Times Book Review

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Iroquois mythology, comets or meteors may trigger a husband to eject his wife through a hole as if she were excrement. While psychoanalysts could have a field day with this belief, French anthropologist Levi-Strauss insists that Freudians err in deciphering myths as if they employed a single symbolic code. Sexual, cosmic, zoological and technological meanings usually overlap, he claims. As proof, Levi-Strauss investigates the multiple associations of symbols common to North and South American Indian tales. Potters' kilns, fireballs, the sloth and the goatsucker all figure in a hemisphere-wide myth system pieced together by the eminent structuralist in this dense study. Themes dear to psychoanalysisoedipal conflict, oral sadism, anal retentivenessare shown to be common knowledge among Amerindian tribes. Levi-Strauss also uncovers a myth of the Jivaro Indians of the Andes that anticipates Freud's scenario of the primal horde in Totem and Taboo. (May)
Library Journal
Levi-Strauss calls his latest work ``playful exercise'' in this recapitulation of major structuralist theories. Using examples from the mythologies of mostly the Americas, and references to the works of Sebillot, Saussure, and Freud, Levi-Strauss shows the ``tranformational relationships'' and ``symbolic equivalences'' which obtain in myths from various regions. The author argues that culture-bearers unconsciously operate through codes because ``every myth confronts a problem . . . '' and ``each code brings out latent properties in a given realm of experience . . . .'' An accessible format; for academic libraries. Winnie Lambrecht, Brown Univ., Providence, R.I.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226474809
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/1988
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1: A Jivaro Myth
2: Pottery, a "Jealous Art"
3: Goatsucker Myths in South America
4: Potters' Kilns and Cooking Fire
5: Goatsucker Myths in North America
6: Oral Greediness and Anal Retention
7: The Sloth as Cosmological Symbol
8: In Quest of Zoemes
9: Levels of the World
10: Excrement, Meteors, Jealousy, Dismembered Body
11: California Demiurges as Jealous Potters
12: Myths in the Form of Klein's Bottle
13: The Nature of Mythic Thought
14: A Jivaro Version of Totem and Taboo
Appendix: Tribes, Peoples, Linguistic Families

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