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The Story of Lynx by Claude Lévi-Strauss

The Story of Lynx (1991)

by Claude Lévi-Strauss

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Book description
Troisième volet du triptyque inauguré par La Voie des masques et La Potière jalouse, l'Histoire du lynx est un conte répandu en Amérique du Nord, et dont les thèmes principaux, fondés sur l'idée de gémellité, se retrouvent dans les plus anciens mythes du Brésil et du Pérou.

La comparaison entre des mythes, les uns provenant de l'Amérique du Nord, les autres recueillis dès le XVIe siècle dans le sud du Brésil et au Pérou, fait apparaître à travers le temps et les lieux ce qu'on pourrait appeler une constante de la pensée amérindienne.

Cette pensée procède en opposant les termes que les mythes conçoivent si proches qu'ils les incarnent dans une paire de frères, souvent jumeaux ou presque, entre lesquels toutefois une différence existe en germe. Mais contrairement à Castor et Pollux qui récusent cette différence et obtiennent de devenir parfaitement égaux, les jumeaux américains ne surmontent jamais leur écart. Ils s'appliquent même à le creuser, comme si une nécessité métaphysique contraignait des termes appariés à diverger. Car la nature, la société sont en perpétuel déséquilibre interne : le même engendre toujours l'autre, la bonne marche de l'univers en dépend. Ainsi, dans la pensée des Amérindiens leur existence impliquait celle de non-Indiens. Bien avant la découverte du Nouveau Monde, la place des Blancs était marquée en creux dans leur système. Ils étaient de ce fait prêts à les accueillir.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0226474712, Hardcover)

"In olden days, in a village peopled by animal creatures, lived Wild Cat (another name for Lynx). He was old and mangy, and he was constantly scratching himself with his cane. From time to time, a young girl who lived in the same cabin would grab the cane, also to scratch herself. In vain Wild Cat kept trying to talk her out of it. One day the young lady found herself pregnant; she gave birth to a boy. Coyote, another inhabitant of the village, became indignant. He talked all of the population into going to live elsewhere and abandoning the old Wild Cat, his wife, and their child to their fate . . . "

So begins the Nez Percé myth that lies at the heart of The Story of Lynx, Claude Lévi-Strauss's most accessible examination of the rich mythology of American Indians. In this wide-ranging work, the master of structural anthropology considers the many variations in a story that occurs in both North and South America, but especially among the Salish-speaking peoples of the Northwest Coast. He also shows how centuries of contact with Europeans have altered the tales.

Lévi-Strauss focuses on the opposition between Wild Cat and Coyote to explore the meaning and uses of gemellarity, or twinness, in Native American culture. The concept of dual organization that these tales exemplify is one of non-equivalence: everything has an opposite or other, with which it coexists in unstable tension. In contrast, Lévi-Strauss argues, European notions of twinness—as in the myth of Castor and Pollux—stress the essential sameness of the twins. This fundamental cultural difference lay behind the fatal clash of European and Native American peoples.

The Story of Lynx addresses and clarifies all the major issues that have occupied Lévi-Strauss for decades, and is the only one of his books in which he explicitly connects history and structuralism. The result is a work that will appeal to those interested in American Indian mythology.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:16 -0400)

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