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Carnivalesque

  • By: Martha Bayless
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Carnivalesque is a term that refers to the license, merrymaking, conviviality, and overturning of hierarchies often associated with Carnival. The concept was first formulated by the Russian literary scholar Mikhail Bakhtin (1895–1975), who saw the carnivalesque as a vital force in historical resistance to oppression. Bakhtin viewed the carnivalesque in a Marxist political framework, but critics have since expanded the concept to the joyous subversion of any kind of status quo, whether in literature, manners, social roles, or other realms.

What all definitions have in common is a view of the carnivalesque as high-spirited and transgressive, generally festive in nature. This does not mean that the carnivalesque is enacted only in times of formal festivals, but rather that the carnivalesque kindles a festive air whenever it ...

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