Sandy Kao

Carnival Ambivalence

I. folk humour (Ch 17)

A. in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; offering a description of its original

traits (195)

1. carnival festivities and the comic spectacles and the life of medieval people are

connected (196)

2. atmosphere: comic aspect as clowns and fools, celebration

B. constitutes a second reality outside the official realm; it is complex system of meaning existing alongside and in opposition to the ‘authoritarian word’ of dominant orthodoxy (194)

1. opposite to the serious official, ecclesiastical, feudal, and political cut from and

ceremonials (197)

2. outside the church and religiosity

3. culture of the marketplace

4. law of its own freedom (198)

C. three arenas of particular significance in the development of life and folk culture

1. carnival laughter

a. human culture; human existence as the primary form; an essential, meaningful

philosophical content

b. time

i. linked to moments of crisis, of breaking points in the cycle of nature or in

the life of society and man; natural (cosmic ) cycle

ii. the utopian realm of community, freedom, equality, and abundance(199)

c. complex nature of carnival laughter (200)

i. festive laughter: laughter of all people

ii. universal in scope; it is directed at all and everyone, including the carnival’s


iii. ambivalent: it is gay, triumphant, and at the same time mocking, deriding

2. the realm of parodic literature (201)

a. celebration

b. the Latin parody or semiparody was widespread

3. the language of the market-place (203)

a. a temporary suspension; a new type of communication always creates new

forms of speech or a new meaning given to the old forms

b. abuses; ambivalent; profanities and oaths (204)

c. images of the human bodyfood, drink, defecation, and sexual lifeplays

predominant role

d. grotesque realism; material bodily principleuniversal, representing all the


e. bodily life are fertility, growth, and a brimming-over abundance

f. degradationthe lowering of all that is high, spiritual, ideal, abstract; it is a

transfer to the material level,...

coming down to earth, the contact with earth as an element

that swallows up and gives birth at the same time

II. laughter, praise and abuse (Ch 18)

A. official seriousness and the unofficial world

1. laughter was eliminated from religious cult, from feudal and state ceremonials, etiquette, and from all the genre of high speculation

2. universalism and freedom

3. people’s unofficial truth; laughter overcomes fear, violence and authority;


4. social consciousness of all the people

B. colloquial language of praise and abuse (212)

1. human body and physical function; lower stratum; debase, destroy, regenerate


2. marketplace as the center of the unofficial (213)

3. double image; upper and lower stratum; praise and abuse are the two sides of

the same coin (216)

4. special intonations; distinct verbal and musical imagery (218)

5. intrinsic value (ex. food and kitchen) (219)

C. market-place images of food and body

1. abuse is followed by praise; they are two aspects of one world, each with its

own body (224)

2. the process of becoming (224)

3. people as a whole, but organized in their own way, they way of the people;

unity of time (225)

4. fear and limitation disappear (226)


III. Banquet

living actuality of bodily life, provides a way or experiencing and understanding human existence which frees consciousness from the grip of religious and cosmic fears

A. banquet image

1. universalism, essential relation to life, death, struggle, triumph, and

regeneration (229)

2. absolutely fearless and gay truth (231)

3. single two-faced image; abundance and rebirth (232)

4. terror is conquered by laughter (238)

B. underworld

1. hell is a banquet and a gay carnival (241)

2. a new model was being constructed in which the leading role was transferred

to the horizontal lines, to the movement forward in real space and historical

time (243)

3. the real being outside all hierarchical norms and values


1. As far as we consider carnival as an utopian idea, how can we relate chronotope with it? While we consider that the social element as an important feature of chronotope, carnival is ideal. Can Bakhtin’s concept of carnival and chronotope cover all the aspects in reality and art?

2. The relation between banquet and underworld is quite striking and even subvertive to the tranditional concept of relition. Can it serve as a recycle of life? Will it be possible that we are able to free from the fear of the traditional concept of underworld? In other words, can human beings really free themselves from the trandition and the society?