Bakhtin and his circle began meeting in the Belorussian towns of Nevel and Vitebsk in before moving to Leningrad in Their group meetings were terminated due to the arrest of many of the group in From this time until his death inBakhtin continued to work on the topics which had occupied his group, living in internal exile first in Kustanai Kazakhstan,Savelovo about km from Moscow,Saransk Mordovia,and finally moving in to Moscow, where he died at the age of eighty.
A carnival is a moment when everything except arguably violence is permitted. It occurs on the border between art and life, and is a kind of life shaped according to a pattern of play.
It is usually marked by displays of excess and grotesqueness. It is a type of performance, but this performance is communal, with no boundary between performers and audience. It creates a situation in which diverse voices are heard and interact, breaking down conventions and enabling genuine dialogue.
It creates the chance for a new perspective and a new order of things, by showing the relative nature of all that exists.
The popular tradition of carnival was believed by Bakhtin to carry a particular wisdom which can be traced back to the ancient world. For Bakhtin, carnival and carnivalesque create an alternative social space, characterised by freedom, equality and abundance.
During carnival, rank otherwise pervasive in medieval society is abolished and everyone is equal. People were reborn into truly human relations, which were not simply imagined but experienced.
Life manifests itself not as isolated individuals but as a collective ancestral body. This is not, however, a collective order, since it is also continually in change and renewal. The self is also transgressed through practices such as masking. Carnival is a kind of syncretic, ritualised pageantry which displays a particular perspective.
It is a brief moment in which life escapes its official furrows and enacts utopian freedom. It is a form of life at once real and ideal, universal and without remainder. Its defining feature is festivity — life lived as festive. It is also sanctioned by the highest ideal aims of human existence, not by the world of practical conditions.
Carnival is also taken to provide a positive alternative vision. It is not simply a deconstruction of dominant culture, but an alternative way of living based on a pattern of play. It prefigured a humanity constructed otherwise, as a utopia of abundance and freedom. It eliminated barriers among people created by hierarchies, replacing it with a vision of mutual cooperation and equality.
Individuals are also subsumed into a kind of lived collective body which is constantly renewed. On an affective level, it creates a particular intense feeling of immanence and unity — of being part of a historically immortal and uninterrupted process of becoming.
The golden age is lived, not through inner thought or experience, but by the whole person, in thought and body. An emphasis is placed on basic needs and the body, and on the sensual and the senses, counterposed perhaps to the commands of the will.
It lowers the spiritual and abstract to the material level.
It thus recognises embodiment, in contrast with dominant traditions which flee from it. Ir replaces the false unity of the dominant system with a lived unity in contingency.Soviet Union at the time of Bakhtin’s writing (b). Bakhtin suggests that the ambivalence of the carnival experience manifests itself in laughter, feasts, and images of the grotesque body.
For Bakhtin “the unofﬁcial carnival is people’s second life, organized on the basis of laughter” (b, 8). According to Bakhtin, carnival is the context in which distinct individual voices are heard, flourish and interact together. The carnival creates the "threshold" situations where regular conventions are broken or reversed and genuine dialogue becomes possible.
Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics.
Stanford University Press, O. Bakhtin (), writer or Rabelais and his World was interested in the transgressive qualities of carnival and the grotesque, including a critical utopia.
This text has in our post-modern society offers a new insight. The Carnival is opposed to, in Bakhtin's words, "all that is finished and polished, to all pomposity, to every ready-made solution in the sphere of thought and world outlook." It is a .
Passages taken from Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World. Trans.
by Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press (). For a fuller understanding of Bakhtin's work one should read the work in full, but I hope the following will serve to introduce Bakhtin's concepts to beginning students of renaisance drama.
Bakhtin (), writer or Rabelais and his World was interested in the transgressive qualities of carnival and the grotesque, including a critical utopia. This text .