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Birger, D.S. (1983). The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, VIII. 1979: The Shaman's Dream Journey: Psychoanalytic and Structural Complementarity in Myth Interpretation. Charles P. Ducey. Pp. 71-117.. Psychoanal Q., 52:316.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, VIII. 1979: The Shaman's Dream Journey: Psychoanalytic and Structural Complementarity in Myth Interpretation. Charles P. Ducey. Pp. 71-117.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:316

The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, VIII. 1979: The Shaman's Dream Journey: Psychoanalytic and Structural Complementarity in Myth Interpretation. Charles P. Ducey. Pp. 71-117.

Daniel S. Birger

The structuralistic approach to myth interpretation focuses on its form and structure rather than its content. Lévi-Strauss, a prime representative of that approach, believes that a myth can be understood as a series of binary oppositional elements and elements which mediate oppositions. The mediatory elements in turn give rise, in Hegelian fashion, to new oppositions that require mediation. The ultimate purpose of myths, according to Lévi-Strauss, is "to provide a logical model capable of overcoming contradictions." The psychoanalytic approach emphasizes the content of the myth rather than its form. It views myths as attempted resolutions of emotional conflicts inherent in human experience rather than as the mastery of intellectual contradiction that the structural approach limits itself to. The author contends that only a combination of both approaches gives us a full understanding of myth. He demonstrates his point by analyzing a Siberian shamanistic legend according to both psychoanalytic and structural methods, leading to a combined model of understanding of the myth. His conclusion is that myth is a shared fantasy in which psychological conflict is identified and gradually brought to a resolution through the dialectical process of progressive mediations between contrasting elements of the tale on ever-higher levels of synthesis.

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Article Citation

Birger, D.S. (1983). The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, VIII. 1979. Psychoanal. Q., 52:316

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