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Ross, J.M. (1990). The Jealous Potter: By Claude Lévi-Strauss. Translated by Benedicte Chorier. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988. 250 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:149-154.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:149-154

The Jealous Potter: By Claude Lévi-Strauss. Translated by Benedicte Chorier. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988. 250 pp.

Review by:
John Munder Ross

In the 1950's, two traditions prevailed in anthropology. These were the so-called cultural and social schools. Influenced by Freud, American thought was dominated by cultural anthropologists like Benedict, Kluckhohn, and Mead, with psychoanalysts, notably Róheim and Erikson, making occasional sallies into the terrain of ethnography. To paraphrase Benedict, these studies all emphasized "patterns of childrearing" and their dynamic underpinnings and consequences. They concentrated on the parents' communication, through established practices, of the given culture's attitudes toward the phenomena of the nature surrounding the growing and impressionable child as well as toward the instinctual drives with which each individual was endowed.

Myths were also scrutinized from this dynamically minded perspective—as expressions of impulse and fantasy. The stories told by primitive peoples to explain their origins often shed light on the unconscious mythologies of more civilized men and women. They were further seen as parables and homilies depicting how one was to act in a dangerous world. The cultural anthropologists thus followed the path first trod by Freud in his application of psychoanalytic principles to the story of Oedipus Rex in The Interpretation of Dreams. The logic of the Oedipus narrative, perhaps as much as any clinical revelation, may have moved Freud to supplant his seduction theory with a subsequent emphasis on psychic reality. In fact, this is suggested in Freud's 1897 letter to Fliess about the play.

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