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The grammar of world mythology. Part 3. The wives of the sun and moon.

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Chris Knight’s exploration of world mythology culminates this evening with a Plains Indian story called ‘The Wives of the Sun and Moon’, one of the key myths analysed by Claude Lévi-Strauss in his Mythologiques. The story tells of how human social structure was initially rhythmic and periodic – alternating with the comings and goings of Sun and Moon – but eventually and disastrously ‘got stuck’ in patriarchy. The myth tells of a heroine whose once-a-month periodic liaisons are replaced by a new patriarchal arrangement in which marriage is a permanent state. Although discussed at length by Lévi-Strauss in terms of his ‘exchange of women’ theory of the origins of culture, this tale is probably better understood in terms of the sex-strike theory of human cultural origins. The evening will conclude with a discussion of how humanity got stuck and how we might escape.

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