The Raw and the Cooked

The title of the first book of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s monumental 4-volume work Mythologiques — a title that served as the model for the title of my posting yesterday, “The hairy and the smooth” (referring to male body types) — one of three conceptual oppositions treated in that posting, the other two being raw – refined (referring to crudeness, naturalness, or simplicity vs. artfulness, in the presentation of these bodies in underwear ads) and authentic – synthetic (referring to natural materials, like leather, vs. various imitations, mostly based on plastics, in the garments the models are wearing).

(#1) A cover for a French edition

On the scholar, very briefly, from Wikipedia:

Claude Lévi-Strauss (28 November 1908 – 30 October 2009) was a French anthropologist and ethnologist whose work was key in the development of the theory of structuralism and structural anthropology.

And the outline history of the series, in French and English:

1964–1971. Mythologiques I–IV, translated by J. Weightman and D. Weightman.
— 1964. Le Cru et le cuit (The Raw and the Cooked, 1969)
— 1966. Du miel aux cendres (From Honey to Ashes, 1973)
— 1968. L’Origine des manières de table (The Origin of Table Manners, 1978)
— 1971. L’Homme nu (The Naked Man, 1981)

The title of the first volume has leaked into the wider culture on several occasions. Two notable examples:

— a rock album. From Wikipedia:


The Raw & the Cooked is the second and final studio album by British rock band Fine Young Cannibals, released in 1989. The title of the album was lifted from the book of the same name (“Le Cru et le Cuit” in French) by French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.

— a book on food and eating: poet, novelist, and screenplay writer Jim Harrison’s The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand (Grove, 2001):

(#3) “A rumination on the unholy trinity of sex, death and food” (Publishers Weekly)

And the book figured prominently in my 5/8/18 posting “Four things are two binary oppositions”:

We are categorizing creatures, and also pattern-seeking creatures, so given four things we’ll break them down into pairs (two-member categories) and see some kind of significance, some kind of “meaning”, in the pairs; we pretty much can’t not do this.

This kind of decomposition into explicit binary oppositions is a hallmark of structuralist thinking. A little essay in NOAD‘s entry:

noun structuralism: a method of interpretation and analysis of aspects of human cognition, behavior, culture, and experience that focuses on relationships of contrast between elements in a conceptual system that reflect patterns underlying a superficial diversity. … Originating in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure, and extended into anthropology by Claude Lévi-Strauss, structuralism was adapted to a wide range of social and cultural studies, especially in the 1960s, by writers such as Roland Barthes, Louis Althusser, and Jacques Lacan.

Personal note: my intellectual influences are quite varied, but they include Roman Jakobson, a major figure of structuralist thinking, especially in linguistics. Binarist thinking was as mother’s milk to me.

I waggishly incorporated this thinking into a piece of homoerotic magic realist fiction, told in the voice of Sundance (Sundance is a angel when he flies; yes, he can fly), called Sonny (originally a genuine country boy, clever and sweet, but largely unschooled, also a fool for mansex), called Soní, in a Bolivia of the mind, in a larger world in which both time and death are flexible and variable notions. [Excerpts follow from] my 4/5/11 AZBlogX posting “San Soní” [with tons of decomposition into parallel binary oppositions]

Preliminary notes on binary oppositions. Many of these have figured repeatedly in my postings, especially postings on the conceptual analysis of the gay male world (and, indeed, of a much wider world). Three large collections of oppositions, I on (roughly) body vs. mind; II on (roughly) experience vs. youth; III on male vs. female.

(Disclaimers: I don’t claim to have caught all the relevant pairings. In any case, these are just first stabs at analysis. And some of the pairings are embodied in cultural figures rather than pointers to semantics.)

Collection I: body – mind

— type A: emotion – intellect; abandon – restraint; Dionysus / Bacchus – Apollo / Adonis

— type B: carnal – spiritual, excess – economy; crude – refined / artful; raw – cooked; natural – artificial; power – beauty; Priapus – Apollo

— type C: hairy – smooth; Esau – Jacob

Collection II: experience / maturity  – youth, Zeus – Ganymede

— type A: experience – enthusiasm; familiar – novel;

— type B: serious / earnest – playful;

— type C: Daddy – Boy; bear – twink

Collection III: male – female

— type A: masculine – feminine

— type B: butch – swish; M-gay (masculine, macho) – F-gay (fem(me), faggy, flamboyant)

— type C: top – bottom;  insertive – receptive

— type D: dominant – submissive; master – slave; sadist – masochist

3 Responses to “The Raw and the Cooked”

  1. Stephen R. Anderson Says:

    Arnold, you seem to equate structuralism with decomposition into binary oppositions, but that (binarism) is an innovation mostly due to Jakobson (and under his influence, to Levi-Strauss). Saussure, Trubetzkoy, other structuralists before Jakobson didn’t see oppositions as necessarily binary. And Martinet, certainly a structuralist, spent most of his career denying the notion (not that I want to recommend Martinet…).

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Yes, I see that in my rush to get to Jakobson and Lévi-Strauss, I seem to have made it appear that their binarist (and universalistically inclined) structuralism is all of structuralism, which is far from the case. Thanks for your corrective. (And on the personal front, I should note that though I was literally a student of Jakobson’s, I was also figuratively a student of the structuralist Leonard Bloomfield, and Bloomfield was neither a binarist nor a universalist.)

  2. Phosphorus and Hesperus | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] aspects of life, in binary oppositions of lower-level concepts (on those binary oppositions, see my 5/3 posting “The Raw and the Cooked”). A (very long) list of some of those lower-level concepts, […]

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