Narrative Cultures in the Mirror

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Scholarly narratives sometimes address remote cultures and alien stories in starkly self-referential terms. This essay examines a piece of anthropological storytelling that addresses a tale from a faraway bygone culture so as to flaunt its own worldview. The anthropological piece is a short essay by Claude Lévi-Strauss, named “Goodbye to the Cross-Cousin,” and its object is Murasaki Shikibu’s eleventh-century Japanese literary masterpiece,The Tale of Genji. This discussion draws a parallel between Lévi-Strauss’s reflection onThe Tale of Genjiand Alice’s famous remark that Looking-Glass House reflects her own home. Taking up the looking-glass metaphor, I submit that gazing at alien narratives through the prism of home-made typologies amounts to seeing yourself in the mirror, whereas engaging in symbolic translation across cultures is tantamount to going through the mirror—an act that produces paradoxes and interpretive recursion, while also fostering insight into alien worlds. Going across the mirror is all about following the threads of analogical (or symbolical, or mythical) thought, I argue. I considerThe Tale of Genjiin this perspective.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)85-101
JournalNarrative Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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