Saturday, July 3, 2010

Carnival


When I think of the word "carnival," I just think of something like the picture above, with some fun games and ferris wheels, but in literary terms, I learned that it has been used in a different way to understand a given text. I'm trying to read books that introduce different "criticisms" of the New Testament, and the book that I'm currently reading is James L. Resseguie's Narrative Criticism of the New Testament. I'm not sure if I can agree with all the tenets of narative-criticism that I've read so far, but it's still interesting. In a subsection titled, "Carnivalesque," Resseguie says something about carnival that I want to quote in full:

"Carnivalesque is a concept, popularized by Mikhail Bakhtin, that highlights the upside down, inside out, top to bottom, inverted world of carnival. Carnival predates Christianity and expresses "life drawn out of its usual rut" and "the reverse side of the world ('monde à l'envers') in which everyday social hierarchies are turned upside down and mocked by normally suppressed voices of the culture. Carnivaleque is prominent in the passion scenes of the Gospels, where symbols and actions mock a staid, authoritarian society and provide the transforming regenerative power for an alternative society. Opposites that underscore the relativity of all structure and order are paired in carnival: king with slave, crowning with de-crowning, exaltation with debasement, and sacred with profane. Similar opposites are paired at the crucifixion: an innocent man dies while an outlaw goes free (Barabbas); the sun fails at noon; the temple veil is torn from top to bottom; a carnival procession mocks the king, which, in turn, mocks the triumphal processions of conquering heroes; a cross serves as a throne; jeers (carnivalistic laughter) deride while ironically affirming truth. The images of carnival are linked to the paradox of death and rebirth. Carnivaleque is never simple negation but has a second, positive level of meaning. The downward, negative movement that characterizes the crucifixion world of abuse, curse, debasing, profanation, mockery, and death contains within it the regenerative power of an upward, positive movement of rejuvenation, renewal of life, and transformed symbols of power. In this sense, carnivalesque is like a U-shaped plot with a downward turn that moves upward to a new stable condition."

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