By Michael André Bernstein
"You humans placed significance in your lives. good, my lifestyles hasn't ever been vital to a person. i don't have any guilt approximately anything," bragged the mass-murderer Charles Manson. "These teenagers that come at you with knives, they're your kids. You taught them. i did not train them. . . . they're working within the streets--and they're coming correct at you!" while a true assassin accuses the society he has brutalized, we're surprised, yet we're extremely joyful via an analogous accusations after they are mouthed by way of a fictional insurgent, outlaw, or monster. In sour Carnival, Michael Andr Bernstein explores this contradiction and defines a brand new determine: the Abject Hero. status on the junction of contestation and conformity, the Abject Hero occupies the logically very unlikely area created via the intersection of the satanic and the servile. Bernstein exhibits that we heroicize the Abject Hero simply because he represents a practice that has turn into a staple of our universal mythology, as seductive in mass tradition because it is in excessive artwork. relocating from an exam of classical Latin satire; via substantially new analyses of Diderot, Dostoevsky, and Cline; and culminating within the court docket testimony of Charles Manson, sour Carnival bargains a revisionist rereading of the whole culture of the "Saturnalian discussion" among masters and slaves, monarchs and fools, philosophers and madmen, voters and malcontents. It contests the supposedly regenerative strength of the carnivalesque and demanding situations the pieties of utopian radicalism trendy in modern educational pondering. The readability of its argument and literary kind compel us to confront a robust predicament that engages essentially the most significant matters in literary stories, ethics, cultural background, and demanding thought this day.
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Extra resources for Bitter Carnival
The excesses are so exuberantly and self-consciously verbal that no identificatory anxieties are likely to be triggered by what is recognized as a celebration of language’s generative potency rather than an inventory of possible human actions. 10 But when I return to Rabelais from reading such accounts, his glee in depicting the various torments inflicted on the books’ villains often leaves me considerably more nervous than Bakhtin’s interpretation would suggest possible. 12 When one examines the use of historical, ethnographic, and literary data in the models of Saturnalian carnivals proposed by contemporary theoreticians, then in spite of any specific divergences three general themes emerge with notable consistency.
Moreover, this evolution is deliberately assumed, consciously thematized at its most challenging moments, by both the author and the fictional character himself, as different historical models and roles are ransacked by the Abject Hero in an attempt to legitimize his sense of impotent superiority. What the Abject Hero seeks to exploit is a double authority deriving from a double ancestry. The first is the freedom of the King’s fool, who, as the Abject Hero recalls from his own reading, is always shown by the most respected texts, whether classical or modern, as understanding more in his folly than do the self-servingly rational courtiers.
Like the word fool itself, the monstrous is a term whose range extends from the natural to the historical realms, and from the domains of ethics and law to that of artistic structuring. Since all of these senses may be at issue in a particular text, none of them can be ruled out of place at the outset without trivializing our encounter with the fictions. If Diderot, for example, knew how partial and self-serving our concept of the monstrous is, he was equally aware that such knowledge only complicates and chastens specific judgments; it neither eliminates their pertinence nor frees us from the pressures to understand ourselves better by asking on what grounds we are prepared to sanction certain practices and beliefs while pathologizing others.
Bitter Carnival by Michael André Bernstein