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Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory

Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory

Author Patrick Wilcken
Publisher Bloomsbury UK
Publication Date 2010-11-01
Section All Remainders / Philosophy
Type New
Format Hardcover
ISBN 9780747583622.rm

Claude Levi-Strauss, author of the modern classic "Tristes Tropiques", was one of the most influential intellectuals in the second half of the twentieth century, whose ideas and methods inspired the work of Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes and Jacques Lacan and arguably changed the face of Western thought. He grew up in Paris in the early twentieth century, in a secular Jewish home and in the midst of a flourishing avant-garde. By the age of ten, he could recite long extracts from Don Quixote from memory, and was soon painting 'cubist' works and composing music. He graduated at the top of his year and later studied with Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Simone Weil, among others. By the 1930s he was in the Brazilian interior, blooding himself as an ethnographer, while the 1940s found him in New York - a Jewish exile from Nazi-occupied France, mixing with dissident intellectuals, artists and poets from all over Europe. Tracing the evolution of his ideas, Wilcken describes Levi-Strauss' key meeting with Roman Jakobson, the pioneer of structural linguistics, and shows how his development of structuralist ideas in the field of anthropology has influenced a generation of thinkers, ultimately capturing the intellectual high ground from Camus, De Beauvoir and Sartre in the 1960s. Drawing on interviews with Levi-Strauss himself, research in his archives now held at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and conversations with contemporary anthropologists, Wilcken explores and explains his ideas, revealing the man behind them to be a writer and artiste manque, who injected an artistic sensibility into academia, using imagery and ideas worthy of a poet. He remains a giant of the twentieth century.

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