Introducing Structuralism and theories of Claude Lévi-Strauss to American audiences in a 1970 lecture at the Guggenheim Museum, Annette Michelson stresses the importance of the linguistic mode for structuralist analysis and examines the nature and limits of its consequences for art and aesthetics. Structuralist anthropology, the author argues, is fundamentally rationalist in approach, proposing an intelligibility of the universe through the organization of differences into overarching schema; it is the relationship between signs, rather than the nature of the individual signs themselves, that determines meaning. Michelson concludes that while such a method may seem applicable to contemporary art, the radically rational stance of Structuralism inhibits our understanding of it. Rather than serving a semantic function, one that could be elucidated through structural analysis, art informs us of the nature of consciousness itself.

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