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Gargantua and Pantagruel by Gustave Doré, 1873. It illustrates the concept of the carnivalesque.
Gargantua and Pantagruel by Gustave Doré, 1873. It illustrates the concept of the carnivalesque.

"In fact, carnival does not know footlights, in the sense that it does not acknowledge any distinction between actors and spectators.... Carnival is not a spectacle seen by the people; they live in it." --Rabelais and His World, " tr. Helene Iswolsky.

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Carnival or Carnivale is a festival season. It occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February or March. It typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations.


The Lenten period of the Liturgical year Church calendar, being the six weeks directly before Easter, was marked by fasting and other pious or penitential practices. Traditionally during Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fats and sugar. The forty days of Lent, recalling the Gospel accounts of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, serve to mark an annual time of turning. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of. The consumption of this, in a giant party that involved the whole community, is thought to be the origin of Carnival.

While it forms an integral part of the Christian calendar, particularly in Catholic regions, some carnival traditions may date back to pre-Christian times. The ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Bacchanalia may possibly have been absorbed into the Italian Carnival. The Saturnalia, in turn, may be based on the Greek Dionysia and Oriental festivals. While medieval pageants and festivals such as Corpus Christi were church-sanctioned celebrations, carnival was also a manifestation of medieval folk culture. Many local carnival customs are based on local pre-Christian rituals, for example the elaborate rites involving masked figures in the Swabian-Alemannic carnival.


Carnivalesque is a term used in the English translations of works written by the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin, which refers to a literary mode that subverts and liberates the assumptions of the dominant style or atmosphere through humor and chaos. Bakhtin traces the origins of the carnivalesque to the concept of carnival, itself related to the Feast of Fools, a medieval festival originally of the sub-deacons of the cathedral, held about the time of the Feast of the Circumcision (1 January), in which the humbler cathedral officials burlesqued the sacred ceremonies, releasing "the natural lout beneath the cassock." Also Bakhtin derives carnival and the carnivalization of literature from the reign of the “Serio-comical” with the examples of Socratic dialogues and Menippean satire. Within the Socratic dialogue carnival affects all people into the behavior and rituals in to the carnivalistic life, as in every individual is affected by carnival, meaning everyone is a constant participant of carnival. In the base of examples from the Menippean satire, the relativity of joy that subverts and creates a syncretic pageant that with humor and grotesque it weds and combines the sacred with the profane.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Carnival" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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