Thursday, November 05, 2009

Claude Levi-Strauss was still alive?

Seeing his obituary did take me aback. I guess I had assumed he had died forty years ago. But he stuck around until he was a couple of weeks shy of 101, and then he slipped away with a private death and private funeral before anyone knew.

ALD has a raft of obits. But the New York Times one, also picked up in the Globe & Mail print edition (jeez, this gets complicated, just setting up the links)has a pretty good description of the difference between L-S's structuralism and the post-structuralism that so soon challenged and eclipsed it. ("Dad," says my English major daughter, "'deconstructionism' is a better label than 'post-structuralism'") Nice how much the two schools resemble and recapitulate the modernism/post-modernism polarity. The one determined to be hard-edged and scientific and global, so that a mind or a skyscraper will obey the same set of rules whether it is Brazil, Hong Kong or Paris. The other soft and indeterminate and local, so that nothing is every quite certain and things adapt to their context.

It's the "post-" movements that are much friendlier to the importance of history, sure. But look how I find myself considering the change: in Levi-Strauss's binaries.
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