Carnival, Carnivalesque, Carnivalisation (305 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

  • Simon Dentith (University of Reading)


The term carnival came to have particular prominence for literary criticism after the publication of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and his World (1965; translated by Helene Iswolsky [Indiana University Press, 1984]). In this book, Rabelais’ writing is seen as drawing its energies from the historic practices of carnival which preceded and surrounded it in Renaissance Europe. Bakhtin gives an especially benign account of carnival rituals, in which the time of carnival features as an utopian irruption into the workaday world, a time of feasting when normally dominant constraints and hierarchies are temporarily lifted. The subversive and anti-authoritarian aspects of carnival are here emphasised – authority figures are mocked, the …

Dentith, Simon. "Carnival, Carnivalesque, Carnivalisation". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 July 2001
[, accessed 25 October 2016.]