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Bakhtinian Carnival in postmodern perf. arts


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#1 DanBuck

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 09:43 PM

So I'm working on a 20-pager about Bakhtin's carnivalesque theory as it applies to postmodern concepts of memory.

Any thoughts?

see if this gets you started:

Carnival and Memory
The corporeal grasp on truth as manifested in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Fuddy Meers

For one day a pauper could be a king, a bawd could laugh with a bishop, and the strict hierarchies of medieval Europe evanesced amidst the music and revelry of the festival. To the outside observer the Feast of Fools—and similar carnival events—might have seemed like an excuse for public drunkenness and general debauchery. However, the details and significance of those chaotic revelries have captured the imaginations of theorists several hundred years removed from the sound of their celebratory music. Mikhail Bakhtin, in his seminal work Rabelais and His World, depicts the power of the carnival spirit by claiming that it offered “the chance to have a new outlook on the world, to realize the relative nature of all that exists, and to enter a completely new order of things” (34). Carnival has enjoyed a number of manifestations and transformations throughout history but, as Bakhtin notes the use of puppets, masks, laughter, and the grotesque were consistent throughout history.
Many theorists have expounded upon Bakhtin’s observations to explore the significance of cultural elements (social, literary, etc.) which seem to possess these descendant ingredients of the carnival tradition. Joseph Roach, in his book Cities of the Dead looks at the carnival as it exists in the celebration of Mardi Gras. Of particular interest are his observations about the role carnival plays in collective memory. Roach, coins the phrase kinesthetic imagination and defines it as “that mental space where imagination and memory converge, is a way of thinking through movements—at once remembered and reinvented—the otherwise unthinkable.” (27). It’s as though carnival and rituals act as a cultural mnemonic device. The past is enacted and remembered with physical gesture, dance, and traditions. Carnival and all its capacities are not limited to the streets, in fact the primary goal of Bakhtin, in his most well-known volume addressing the subject, is to note carnival as demonstrated in the works of sixteenth century novelist Rabelais. And through the centuries authors have used carnival devices to create a tone, setting, or catalyst for social change. In this essay, I am interested in exploring a play in which the main character has an individualized day of carnival that beckons to her bodily memory of the truth. I plan to first explore the most prominent and recurring elements of Bakhtin’s description of carnival both in festival and literary forms. Then I will use Joseph Roach’s analysis of Mardi Gras to discuss how true human festivity and the grotesque resist prescribed hegemonic narrative. Finally, I will illustrate how David Lindsay-Abaire’s Fuddy Meers creates a day of carnival to demonstrate the inimitable memory of his main character despite the narratives assigned her.


#2 Darren H

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 01:38 PM

QUOTE (DanBuck @ Dec 14 2008, 09:43 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Any thoughts?


If there's room for fiction in your paper, you'll never find a better example of the carnivalesque as pomo memory than the last 50 pages or so of Robert Coover's The Public Burning.


#3 DanBuck

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 04:33 PM

The paper is finished. I wasn't realy looking for help, just seeing if anybody had anything interesting to say about it. I used Infinite Jest as a literary model for postmodern carnival. It worked pretty well, I think. (Of course, I haven't gotten the paper back yet)

#4 Darren H

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 09:17 AM

Your post brought back a lot of memories of that dissertation I never finished writing. Part of my project concerned the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, which was a carnival on a grand scale. I'd planned on digging into Bakhtin, along with anthropological studies of ritualistic executions, for my chapter on Coover's novel, which filters the executions through all kinds of pomo hijinks. Bakhtin's carnival is one of those rare theoretical frameworks that has a broad range of applications, I think.

I keep thinking I'm going to read Infinite Jest one of these days (months), but if it hasn't happened yet, I'm beginning to doubt it ever will.

#5 DanBuck

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 09:47 AM

QUOTE (Darren H @ Dec 19 2008, 10:17 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Your post brought back a lot of memories of that dissertation I never finished writing. Part of my project concerned the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, which was a carnival on a grand scale. I'd planned on digging into Bakhtin, along with anthropological studies of ritualistic executions, for my chapter on Coover's novel, which filters the executions through all kinds of pomo hijinks. Bakhtin's carnival is one of those rare theoretical frameworks that has a broad range of applications, I think.

I keep thinking I'm going to read Infinite Jest one of these days (months), but if it hasn't happened yet, I'm beginning to doubt it ever will.



The Rosenberg Story has fascinated me since I saw Angels. Which, by the way, has become one of my favorite plays. (At least Millenium Approaches for sure).

In fact, the whole cold war/McCarthy thing is so rich. We studied a good bit about the blacklist as it related to Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, and even Brecht. So intriguing.

#6 DanBuck

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 06:30 PM

ddddyyyy is clearly spam - but he/she knows truth when he/she sees it.

#7 rose2009

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 09:02 PM

QUOTE (Darren H @ Dec 18 2008, 02:38 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (DanBuck @ Dec 14 2008, 09:43 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Any thoughts?


If there's room for fiction in your paper, you'll never find a better example of the carnivalesque as pomo memory than the last 50 pages or so of Robert Coover's The Public Burning.



Hi, your idea is very interesting ! sad.gif

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