Carnival

Carnival – Linguist and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin uses the term “carnival” in to mean “the context in which individual voices flourish.” The carnival is a threshold or liminal or uncanny or abject space. In the carnival, conventions are broken, reversed, or disregarded. Out of and because of this seeming chaos, true dialogue begins to be audible. The carnival is therefore the condition of postmodernism or whatever comes after it. Mikhail Epstein goes on to define the carnival as the seat of the potential, the possible—the proto. Epstein and Umberto Ecco see late modernity as a time during which conventions must necessarily be destroyed—and all affect must necessarily become ironic, purely quotational—in order that a new potential (proto) and a new sincerity may emerge.

Originally, Bakhtin wrote of the carnival in terms of Dostoevsky. Bakhtin saw each of the characters in Dostoevsky’s novels as well defined and strongly influential upon each other character. Thus, Dostoevsky creates a “polyphony” or carnival, in which many voices are heard, each distinct, and the overall chorus allows for and in fact necessitates a “real” dialogue, in contrast to the “monologism” or monologue inherent in many other, lesser novels, where the falsely differentiated characters do not stand out enough from one another and do not create a carnival. Because each character in Crime and Punishment is actually listening to each other character, we are able to watch every character grow, complexly, over the course of the book.

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