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The student of mythology must embrace the contradiction [#permalink]
16 Jun 2013, 23:04
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The student of mythology must embrace the contradiction between chaotic and illogical nature of myth and the startling similarity of myths collected from disparate cultures. Yet this very antinomy may lead us to a solution if we recognize the quandary as parallel to that of the early linguistic philosophers who sought to link sound and meaning in much the same way as Jung more recently sought to link "archetype" (a given mythological pattern) with fixed significance. Linguistics began to develop as a science with F. de Saussure's realization early in this century that the nature of linguistic signs (or sounds) is essentially arbitrary and that the combinations of signs, rather than the signs themselves, constitute the meaningful data. The same is true of myth.
Yet, as Claude Levi-Strauss has observed, "there is a very good reason why myth cannot simply be treated as language if its specific problems are to be solved; myth is language." Myth has to be recounted through the medium of language, so it is, at once, that language, and a kind of "language" itself. To conceptualize this duality, Levi-Strauss turned to Saussurean structuralism. Saussure's linguistics distinguished between langue (roughly "language," the living structural entity of any language, which transforms itself through time) and parole("speaking," the external manifestation of langue, that remains fixed in time). Similarly, myth can be seen as composed of two such elements: each recounting of a myth is the parole which partakes of and also informs the myth's langue (the structural totality of all versions of the myth). If parole is fixed in time (synchronous) and langue extends through time (diachronous) then we can posit a third level on which myth operates, a level which combines elements of the other two.
Myth is at once synchronous and diachronous. A myth recounts events of the remote past, yet it creates a timeless pattern which embraces and reconciles past, present, and future and is thus unique among linguistic phenomena. This distinction becomes clearer if we consider the relationship of poetry and myth. Although the two have sometimes been erroneously linked, they exhibit crucial differences and, in fact, must be placed at opposite ends of the spectrum of linguistic expression. Poetry can be translated only at the cost of severely distorting the original, yet myth retains its impact in translation no matter how it is transposed geographically and culturally. "Myth," said Levi-Strauss, "is language functioning on an especially high level where meaning succeeds practically at 'taking off' from the linguistic ground on which it keeps rolling."
1. The primary purpose of this passage is to (A) show how Saussure used linguistics in the study of mythology (B) reconcile the contradiction between the irrational nature of myth and the global similarity of myth (C) introduce a new methodology for the structural study of myth (D) outline the contributions of Levi-Strauss to the interpretation of myths (E) define terms which will be used in further discussion of myth
2. It can be inferred that the purpose of distinguishing between parole and langue in relation to myth is to (A) make it possible to differentiate among several variants of a myth (B) demonstrate the similarity between myth and language (C) illustrate the changing meanings assumed by one myth (D) distinguish between specific versions of a myth and the unity of all its versions (E) clarify the roles of sign and symbol in myth
3. According to the passage, Jung's concept of "archetype" (A) was inspired by the thinking of early linguistic philosophers (B) invested recurrent elements in myths with specific meanings (C) was a logical precursor of Saussurean structuralism (D) was disproved by the work of Saussure (E) can be used to study myth from a structural point of view
The author quotes Levi-Strauss in the last paragraph primarily in order to (A) stress the point that meaning in myth lies outside its mode of rendition (B) argue that myth is more sophisticated than poetic expression (C) refute the misconception that myth and poetry are essentially similar (D) clarify the relationship between poetry and myth (E) summarize the discussion of the similarities between the study of myth and the study of language
Re: The student of mythology must embrace the contradiction [#permalink]
19 Jun 2013, 20:43
Could you please provide the OE for questions 2 and 4 ?
Somehow I can no longer access my reports for that exam; not sure what's going on. However, the following was posted on another forum:
The answers with explanation:
C) - (A) is a distortion of information. Paragraph 1 discusses Saussure's work with linguistics, but not with respect to the study of mythology. Likewise, (B)is mentioned early in paragraph 1. However, the author never sets out to reconcile the contradiction. (C) is pretty close to theprephrase mentioned above, so keep it. Levi-Strauss is mentioned throughout the passage, but his accomplishments are not outlined, so (D) is wrong. And while there are terms defined in paragraph 2, the definitions are given only when describing part of the methodology being laid out. Therefore, you can eliminate (E)
D) - Remember that an Inference question will never be too far from what's stated in the passage. In this case, think about what each term means.Parole is the recounting of a myth, while the langue is the structural whole of the myth. The langue , then, is a uniting thread through all its versions. The parole , meanwhile, addresses each retelling. Thus, the two terms distinguish between specific versions of a myth and the unity of all its versions, (D). (A) addresses the role of the parole , but not the langue . (B) is not correct, for even though these are linguistic terms, their function is not to compare myth to language. (C) does not work because langue illustrates the common meaning, so this can't possibly be the answer. And (E) is outside the scope of the passage.
B) - Whenever you see "according to the passage," you should be able to scan the passage and find the answer almost word for word. In this case, "recurrent elements in myth" matches "archetype," and "specific meanings" corresponds to "fixed significance." Thus, (B) is correct. (A) is wrong, as the relationship between Jung and early linguists is not mentioned. The passage simply mentions that the two are similar. (C) doesn't work because no link is ever made between Jung and Saussure. (D) is wrong for the same reason as (C). And (E) is wrong because Jung's ideas did not take the structure of myths into account.
A) - A quick scan of the answer choices will help you eliminate some. Levi-Strauss didn't argue or refute anything, so (B) and (C) are out. He never mentioned poetry, so (D) can go as well. And (E) is wrong because he never mentions the study of language. That leaves only (A), which makes perfect sense. What Levi-Strauss is saying here is that myth takes off from the language that it's built on, so that its meaning actually transcends the actual words being used.