What is this desire to break free of the conventions of society?
Why the wine, the music, the dancing and late nights, the sweat of the crowd and the beat of the drum? More importantly, how does the spirit of carnival enter into the writing classroom?
Future Research: An Annotated Bibliography of Mikita Hoy’s Bakthin and Popular Culture< xml="true" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" prefix="o" namespace="">
In this journal article, Mikita Hoy explores the Bakhtinian concept of carnival as it applies to popular culture, music, and art. According to Hoy, Bakhtin considers the novel the best example of the heteroglossic nature of language; “novelization does not permit generic monologue, but rather insists on an interplay of dialogues between what any given system will admit as literature, or ‘high culture,’ or art, or ‘good writing,’ and on the other hand all those texts excluded from these definitions as nonliterature” (766).
This layering upon layering of dialogue in the novel translates to the concept of carnival in popular culture. Many of today’s popular (English) culture magazines are not written in one specific discourse style; instead, they combine aspects of American and British English, African American Vernacular, academic language and slang (Hoy 769). The text of these popular magazines can thus not be read as only one text, instead, readers encounter a multiplicity of dialogues and voices as they read about popular sports figures, models, or pop singers.
The fools, jesters, and carnival jokesters, step into this mix of discourses in the form of characters who are able to criticize while knowing nothing, vulgarize without caring about the consequences of their actions, and parodying not only the culture of the society around them, but their own culture as well. Hoy argues that nowhere is this representation of the carnival fool, of carnivalesque itself, more evident than in the discourse and visuals of punk rock music. Citing the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten as examples of “Lords of Misrule,” (772) Hoy describes how their lyrics and music exemplified the spirit of carnival. The Sex Pistols wrote what sometimes amount to socially sacrilegious music, but they were granted the right to do so by their status as carnivalesque jesters in the court of punk. Their lyrics “make parody out of the monarchy (“God Save the Queen”), the government (“Anarchy in the < xml="true" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" prefix="st1" namespace="">U.K.”), the human body (“Bodies”), multinational corporations (“EMI”), and the holocaust (“Belsen was a Gas”) (774).
The concept of carnival in literature, of heteroglossic discourses and their contribution to the parody of popular culture can be studied further in the composition classroom as a means of illustrating the validity of hybrid discourses and texts, such as punk and hip-hop lyrics, and non-standard varieties of English.
Note: Citations are listed below.
These two sources are excellent starting points for research into Carnivalesque:
Hoy, Mikita. Bakhtin and Popular Culture. New Literary History, Vol 23, No. 3.
Morson, Gary Saul and Caryl Emerson. Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990.
Note: this text is available at the HSU library