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Monday, August 17, 2009

Levi-strauss on Oedipus Rex

The structuralist approach cannot be understood in isolation rather they have to be seen in the context of a larger structure. This approach takes us further and further away from the text and into the large and comparatively abstract question of genre history and philosophy. There is a constant movement away from the interpretation of the individual literary work and a parallel drive towards the understanding of the larger structure.

Claude Levi-Strauss applied structuralist outlook in to the interpretation of myth. He looked at myth as an interaction between linguistics anthropology and literary criticism. Anything could happen in a myth there is no logic, no continuity. But there is a profound similarity in myths collected in different regions throughout the world. Early students of language and ancient Greek philosophers did not go beyond the use of words, they associated definite sounds with definite meanings. Modern linguistics like Saussure discovered the relation between the units of sounds. For instance Carl Jung studied myths historically wherein he tried to find the meaning in the basic units of myths construction.

Synchronic is the basic structure in language like grammar which is also the unchanging element in the study of myth. The diachronic elements are the changes in the sequence of words which is placed within the larger structure. Levi-Strauss proposed that the basic elements of myths are not isolated relations but bundles of such relations. Thus to understand myths one has to pay close attention to the various relations within between and among stories. He suggested that the individual tale ( the Parole) from a cycle of myth did not have a separate and inherent meaning but could only be understood by considering its position to the whole cycle.

In his analysis of Oedipus myth, he placed the individual story of Oedipus within the context of the whole cycle of tales connected with the city of Thebes. He then began to see repeated motifs and contrasts and he used these as a basis of interpretation. Concrete details from the Oedipus myth can be seen as a part of a larger structure and the larger structure is seen as an overall network of symbolic, thematic and archetypal resonance.

Levi- Strauss explains the origin of human life and highlights the binary between myths and human knowledge. The structuralist accept that the world is constructed through language and we do not have access to reality other than through linguistics medium. For the structuralist culture can be read like a language since culture is made up of many networks and they tend to operate in a systematic way.


Srikeit said...

A succinct and useful summary. Thank you, Ashif :)

Deepa said...

Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Thank You sir.....

Anil Pinto said...

dear anonymous, Asif, wherever he is, take the credit. Thanks all the same for taking time to drop a line.