Look, Listen, Read

Look, Listen, Read

Book - 1997
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Over the course of a monumental career, Claude Lévi-Strauss has interwoven artistic materials and themes into his seminal analyses of the "savage mind." Now the world's most famous anthropologist turns his attention entirely to the domain of aesthetics. In a series of brilliant but meticulous studies, he ranges widely across the domains of painting, music, literature and the plastic arts, his fertile mind opening more general, philosophical perspectives. Look, Listen, Read begins with an analysis of Nicolas Poussin's method of visual composition, and after drawing a surprising parallel with Marcel Proust, moves into a fascinating discussion, joined by Ingres and Delacroix among others, on the art of painting. Next the author turns to music, taking his inspiration from an inquiry into certain chord modulations in Rameau's opera Castor et Pollux, which at the time of its composition were considered a musical breakthrough. The book then considers the nature of the "beautiful." The reference point here remains the French Enlightenment, and in particular Diderot's reflections on painting. Focusing on the aesthetic controversies of this same period, but with regard to music, a fascinating series of chapters revives the work of the largely forgotten eighteenth-century musicologist Michel-Paul-Guy de Chabanon and his surprisingly contemporary discussion of music's partial resemblance to language. This leads to a consideration of the relations of words to music in opera, where Lévi-Strauss reveals something of his own tastes in music while engaging in a critical review of a work by his recently deceased friend and colleague, Michel Leires. The relation between sounds and colors is considered next, largely through a breathtaking examination of a famous but difficult poem by Arthur Rimbaud. There follows an exchange of notes with André Breton, written some fifty years ago, on the nature of the work of art. In the book's concluding chapters the author dons the more familiar mantle of the anthropologist, and by looking at the myths of the American Indians, offering an analysis of their understanding of the place of art and of the artist in their own societies. Look, Listen, Read is a truly original work, far removed from the intellectual fads that mark contemporary discussions on aesthetics, as Lévi-Strauss advances into new territory even as he remains faithful to his structuralist inspiration. The book weaves a dense tissue of connections, correspondences, and principles, while at the same time remaining sensitive to the specificities of each of the beaux-arts. In a valedictory statement capping a lifetime's work, Lévi-Strauss has made a major new contribution to our understanding of the place of art in human life, the nature of its appeal, the source of its creativity, and its universality.
Publisher: New York : BasicBooks, c1997.
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780465068807
0465068804
Branch Call Number: 700.19 Lev 3701 1
Characteristics: v, 202 pages : color illustrations

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