Mikhail Bakhtin - "Carnival and Carnivalesque" - summary and review
In "Carnival and Carnivalesque" Mikhail Bakhtin describes how starting from the 17th century the popular carnival life began to disappear. The carnival lost its centrality in people's lives, its forms deteriorated and it lost its authentic meaning of a communal performance in the public square. Still, Bakhtin hold that certain aspects of the carnival persisted and were preserved in modern forms of theatrical and other spectacular performances.
According to Bakhtin, the carnivalesque sense of the world penetrated language and literature and has taking part in shaping their modern forms. The carnivalesque form was manifested in a language of artistic imagery that retained the sensual nature of the carnival. For example, the carnival's familiarity was transformed according to Bakhtin into certain types of prose and is reflected in certain plot structures, situation, narration style and language. During the renaissance the carnivalesque view of the world and its categories of laughter and the symbolic acts of coronation and deposition, of change and ambivalent customs have penetrated and transformed almost all genres of artistic literature. The decline of the carnival in the 17th century caused it to stop being a direct source of carnivalisation in literature and its effects on the genre was diminished. Thus carnivalization and carnivalesque remained only as a literary tradition. Even though the carnival as a specific cultural form no longer exists in modern times, Bakhtin holds that its legacy, tradition and function live on. Cultural researchers such as John Fiske (in "Understanding Popular Culture" have suggested that certain contemporary cultural forms such as TV game-shows retain the nature and function of the medieval carnival as described by Mikhail Bakhtin.