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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Methodological Implications


Lévi-Strauss (1962/1966) notes that “the elements of mythical thought similarly lie half-way between percepts and concepts” (p. 18). The bricoleur’s world is a space of reverie, the land of the imaginal, composed of neither material facts nor mental ideas, which is neither empirical nor rational. It is a world, Romanyshyn (2000a, cassette) reminds us, where one is neither awake nor asleep, the “neither nor” world of soul, of metaphor, which he defines as something “that alludes to what remains elusive,” that is all that we can do here—make the allusion and elusively move on. Romanyshyn relates that this in-between space of soul is itself a perspective, which undoes the Cartesian split, and this in-between space is of utmost importance in play and we will “re-turn” to these notions.


According to Lévi-Strauss (1962/1966), when the bricoleur begins to work on a project,


His first practical step is retrospective. He has to turn back to an already existent set made up of tools and materials, to consider or reconsider what it contains and, finally and above all, to engage in a sort of dialogue with it and, before choosing between them, to index the possible answers which the whole set can offer to his problem . . . . and the decision as to what to put in each place also depends on the possibility of putting a different element there instead, so that each choice which is made will involve a complete reorganization of the structure, which will never be the same as one vaguely imagined nor as some other which might have been preferred to it. (pp. 18-19)

This retrospective step is reminiscent of Romanyshyn’s (2002) “backwards glance,” and demonstrates the dialogical nature of bricolage. Combined with the insight that bricolage brings of pictures hiding in the shadow of words, and the metaphorical nature of bricolage, our imaginal bricolage methodology is beginning to emerge. As Lévi-Strauss (1962/1966) further describes the bricoleur working on a project we can begin to see allusions to three different methodologies:


“it would seem that mythological worlds have been built up, only to be shattered again, and that new worlds were built from the fragments” (Boas I, p. 18) . . . . [in] the continual reconstruction from the same materials, it is always earlier ends which are called upon to play the part of means: the signified changes into the signifying and vice versa. (p. 21)

Genette (1964/1982), in a classic article paying tribute to Lévi-Strauss, relates the literary critic to the bricoleur and comments that the work he is criticizing is “like those primary wholes that the bricoleur dismantles in order to extract parts which may prove useful.” Genette also argues that “this constant interchange, this perceptual inversion of signs and meaning is a good description of the dual function of the critic’s work, which is to produce meaning with the work of others, but also to produce his own work out of this meaning.” The interchange and meaning making of both the critic and bricoleur give us insight into the hermeneutic nature of bricolage. Bricolage also alludes to phenomenology, as Lévi-Strauss (1962/1966) notes:


Further, the “bricoleur” also, and indeed principally, derives his poetry from the fact that he does not confine himself to accomplishment and execution: he “speaks” not only with things, as we have already seen, but also through the medium of things: giving an account of his personality and life by the choices he makes between the limited possibilities. (p. 21)

Finally, we can see hints of heuristics in the statement: “The ‘bricoleur’ may not ever complete his purpose but he always puts something of himself into it” (Lévi-Strauss, 1962/1966, p. 21). Gathering up the bits and pieces from above, we can see that bricolage contains all three items that I wanted to have in my methodology, pictures, words, and conversations, as well as alluding to the three different methodologies I have included.


As previously mentioned, Guggenbuhl-Craig (1995) refers to the different configurations of images produced by turning the kaleidoscope, when discussing psychology, paradox and play. The following brief interlude, a kaleidoscopic turn, if you will, reveals how we might whimsically see these methodologies written in Jung’s stone. Later, other turnings will reveal different images.

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