Bakhtins Theory Of The Carnival English Literature Essay

The carnival, harmonizing to Bakhtin ‘s theory, is ‘an component of popular history that has become textualised ‘ .[ 1 ]In Problems of Dostoevsky ‘s Poetics he describes how the historical carnival developed a linguistic communication of symbols that express the ‘carnival attitude which penetrates all of its signifiers ‘ and can so be transposed ‘into the linguistic communication of artistic images ( i.e. the linguistic communication of literature ) aˆ¦ We call [ this ] heterotaxy of carnivalaˆ¦ the carnivalisation of literature ‘ .[ 2 ]In the debut of Rabelais and His World, after depicting the ‘carnival experience ‘ and the significance of the carnival to the lives of the mediaeval people, Bakhtin goes on to research through the plants of Rabelais how its signifiers and symbols can be used textually with the same purposes and effects as the carnival itself.[ 3 ]Historical carnivals live on in literary texts, and harmonizing to Vice a text can be carnival with respects to both its topic and its agencies of representation. Probably the best illustration of this is Bakhtin ‘s Rabelais itself, as it is both ‘about the insurgent openness of the Rabelaisian novel, but it is besides a subversively unfastened book itself ‘ ( his accent ) .[ 4 ]It concerns itself with the topic of carnival, its subjects and images and how these are represented in literary plants, and through this it subverts and challenges authorization, itself going carnivalised. By talking against or overthrowing authorization, supplying lampoons of official life, and emancipating viing voices or discourses, a text can be carnivalesque, and hence the carnival is a literary rule that can be used and recognised across a diverseness of periods and genres.

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Golden ‘s fresh Memoirs of a Geisha contains many of the artistic images that express the carnival attitude. The storyteller and supporter Sayuri ( so Chiyo ) describes to the reader the first teashop that she encounters, into which she spies with Kuniko:

I heard the sounds of laughter and speaking, and person vocalizing to the concomitant of a shamisenaˆ¦ An old manaˆ¦ was stating a narrative about keeping a ladder for a immature adult female and peering up her robe ; everyone was express joying except Mr. Tanakaaˆ¦ an older adult female in a kimono came with a glass for him, which he held while she poured beer.

( p.26 )

There are several carnival elements in this debut to the geisha civilization. The laughter and imbibing are of cardinal importance, and convey to mind the images of gaiety and banqueting that Bakhtin describes. Laughter opposes official earnestness and has regenerative potency when directed towards official figures of authorization, and imbibing is linked to the monstrous stuff bodily maps. The narrative being told is besides important, because it brings together the two antonyms of a immature adult female and an old adult male. It is a two-in-one image of ‘youth and age, top and underside, face and backsideaˆ¦ Paired images, chosen for contrastaˆ¦ are characteristic of the carnival manner of believing ‘ ( Problems: pp. 103-104 ) . Reversal is involved, as the adult female is raised up to a higher degree above the adult male, while it is likely that she would hold been considered to be in a lower place in that society. The fact that he is peering up her robe once more brings in the component of the grotesque organic structure with its focal point on the lower bodily stratum and openings, which will be dealt with in more item later in the essay.

Two rites having conspicuously in Memoirs of a Geisha are dressing and vesture and the presenting of gifts. There are luxuriant descriptions of the vesture worn and of the complicated dressing and make-up process undergone for the adult female to ‘become ‘ a geisha. This is related to a secondary rite of carnival briefly mentioned by Bakhtin in Problems which he calls camouflage ‘i.e. the carnivalistic changing of vesture, places and fates in life ‘ ( p. 103 ) . Equally good as altering her apparels Sayuri is invariably seeking to direct her hereafter and her fate, get downing by altering her place in life from that of a amah to a geisha. The presenting of gifts is another secondary carnival ritual and a cardinal subject in the novel. The work forces often give geisha expensive and excessive gifts, which are symbols of the popularity and success of geisha and of the wealth and success of the work forces.

Equally good as the prevalence of carnival images, the life in Golden ‘s novel can be described as a carnival life. Bakhtin describes this as ‘the peoples 2nd life, organized on the footing of laughter ‘ that was ‘vividly felt as an flight from the usual official manner of life ‘ ( Rabelais ; pp. 7-8 ) . This dual being is evident in Memoirs of a Geisha. The teashops, parties, and the company of the geisha provides a sort of carnival flight from the ordinary, official, concern and household lives of the work forces in the novel. This function is revealed in a conversation between Mother and Mameha:

“ You ‘d believe that with this awful Depression, clients would hold slowed to a drip, but truly I ‘ve ne’er been so busyaˆ¦ ”

“ They need their merriment more than of all time now, ” Mother said

( p. 149 )

They play the of import function of supplying a carnival flight from the concerns and anxiousnesss of existent life. Geisha means ‘artist ‘ , and their intent was basically to entertain, which they did through conversation, gags, vocal and dance. These can all be described as carnivalistic, as they all contribute to and take to accomplish the important carnival component of laughter, which builds the 2nd life opposed to officialdom, is cosmopolitan, and has the possible for alteration and reclamation. Besides cardinal to carnival is the levelling or suspension of hierarchal inequality ; the ‘free, familiar contact among people ‘ and the abolishment of distance ( Problems ; p. 101 ) . Linked to this is the amalgamation of antonyms and the combination of ‘the sacred with the profane, the lofty with the lowly, the great with the insignificant, the wise with the stupid, etc. ‘ ( Problems ; p. 101 ) . There is a repeating connection of antonyms in Memoirs of a Geisha and a definite levelling facet to the geisha civilization. It enables ugly and old work forces to have attending from immature, beautiful adult females, and creates ‘a particular signifier of free and familiar contactaˆ¦ among people who were normally divided by the barriers of caste, belongings, profession and age ‘ ( Rabelais ; p.10 ) . Sayuri is a hapless orphan from a fishing small town, who under other fortunes would non be allowed to mix with the high category business communities she entertains, and she is cognizant of this:

I wondered what he [ her male parent ] would believe if he could see me kneeling here in Mameha ‘s flat, have oning a robe more expensive than anything he ‘d of all time put eyes on, with a baron across from me and one of the most celebrated geisha in all of Japan at my side.

( pp. 212-213 )

However, the being of these carnival images in Memoirs of a Geisha does non needfully intend that they perform the same map that Bakhtin describes, and I would reason that they indicate something rather different.

Although for the work forces the teashops and the geisha are used as an flight from and opposition to official civilization, to which the carnival images contribute, for the geisha the carnival seems to be restraining. Their universe ‘is one governed in all ways by a stiffly structured order. Every individual has a proper topographic point in this hierarchy ; every action must conform to firmly established Torahs of properness ‘ .[ 6 ]While some hierarchal dealingss are leveled, as mentioned earlier, they are non wholly done away with. Although Sayuri is a hapless orphan from a little town, allowed to interact with those usually considered to be above her, she must conceal her background from them and make the semblance that she was born into the geisha civilization:

I ‘m a fisherman ‘s girl from a small town called Yoroidoaˆ¦ I ‘ve ne’er told more than a smattering of people anything at all about Yoroido, or about the house in which I grew up, or about my female parent and fatheraˆ¦ Most people would much instead transport on with their phantasies that my female parent and grandma were geisha, and that I began my preparation in dance when I was weaned from the chest, and so on.

( p. 1 )

In some ways, hierarchies are even more strongly enforced. An indicant of this is the replacing of the carnival infinite of the market place in Rabelais with the private and interior infinites of the teashops in Memoirs. Harmonizing to Bakhtin, the importance of the market place lies with its openness, which enables familiar contact and represents the catholicity of the people. The teashops, on the other manus, create sole infinites that one must be popular, successful or affluent plenty to travel to. They do in some senses ‘take on the extra significance of the carnival square ‘ as they are a ‘scene of meetings and contacts of diverse people ‘ , and on juncture they do widen out onto the streets and public infinites, but for the most portion they separate and discriminate ( Problems: p. 106 ) .

The geisha can be likened to the buffoons and saps in mediaeval carnival, as they fulfil the same map that Bakhtin describes of ‘constant, accredited representatives of the carnival spirit in mundane life out of carnival season ‘ , they ‘remained saps and buffoons ever and wherever they made their visual aspect. As such they represented a certain signifier of life ‘ ( Rabelais: p.8 ) . Similarly, the geisha must ever dress and act as geisha, even when they are non entertaining. Memoirs provides us with an penetration into this border-zone occupied by both the buffoons and the geisha. Bakhtin besides said that ‘ [ tungsten ] hile carnival lasts, there is no other life outside it. During carnival clip life is capable merely to its Torahs, that is, the Torahs of its ain freedom ‘ ( Rabelais: p. 7 ) . If the geisha, like the buffoons, are ever populating in and representative of the carnival life, so they must ever be capable to these Torahs and this prompts us to inquire what these ‘laws of freedom ‘ mean when they govern 1s whole life. This reveals the self-contradictory nature of this statement, as for the geisha the alleged ‘laws of freedom ‘ can non be emancipating. Memoirs of a Geisha provides a sort of sub-rosa position of the carnival demoing us the lives of those who provide and contribute to it, and how those elements which provide such release for the work forces are in fact restraining for the geisha. In the geisha ‘s attempts to supply a carnivalistic universe for the work forces they entertain, they are unable to make anything for themselves or do their ain picks. It creates a hierarchy and undermines the catholicity that should travel manus in manus with carnival. It therefore offers us a different position of the carnival, ask foring us to see it in a different manner.

To a certain extent the geisha are liberated, and Sayuri is one illustration of this, as by going a geisha she is freed from the subjection and subjugation she was subjected to as a amah. She besides explains to the reader that ‘we geisha are so good pampered by our amahs that we barely know how to look after ourselves ‘ ( p. 160 ) . They are released from everyday undertakings, and although she still does non hold complete freedom, Sayuri additions Mother ‘s protection from Hatsumomo so that she is no longer capable to her dictatorship. However, despite the fact that they do hold some separation from the earnestness of official life, which is most clearly seen when contrasted to Sayuri ‘s life as a worker during the war period when the geisha territories are closed down, the Torahs and bottlenecks they are liberated from are simply replaced by another set of ordinances. The geisha are released from some facets of existent life, but on the other manus, they must ever follow certain regulations of behavior, as ‘a miss who has mastered the assorted humanistic disciplines will still come off severely at a party if she has n’t learnt the proper bearing and behaviour ‘ , and ‘even when a miss is merely scampering down the hall toward the lavatory ‘ she is expected to hold the right bearing ( Golden: p. 160 ) .

The elements of the carnival that Bakhtin describes as liberating and insurgent alternatively can even be seen to work as agencies of control. For illustration, although feeding and imbibing are a cardinal portion of both carnival and the geisha civilization, the geisha themselves are non ever allowed to eat the nutrient unless asked to make so by the work forces:

A minute subsequently the door slid unfastened and three amahs came into the room carrying dinner for the work forces. I was a spot hungry and had to debar my eyesaˆ¦ Nobu must hold noticed how hungry I looked for he insisted I taste it.

( p. 426 ) .

Frequently, whether or non they drink is besides determined by the work forces they entertain:

I made another score and H2O for Nobu, and he made one for me. It was the last thing I wanted ; already the room seemed cloudy. But Nobu raised his glass, and I had no pick but to imbibe with him.

( p. 443 )

Drinking with respects to tea is even made into a ceremonial, where they ‘prepare tea in a really traditional mode ‘ and ‘even the guestsaˆ¦ must keep the cup in certain mode and drink from it merely so ‘ ( Golden: p. 160 ) . The bodily maps that are cosmopolitan and meant to equalise are alternatively ritualized and become something typical and estranging.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, like in Rabelais, the stuff bodily rule plays a prevailing function, as there is a focal point on feeding, imbibing and the sexual facets of the organic structure. Grotesque pragmatism is an of import method through which hierarchies are suspended and ‘free and familiar contact ‘ is enabled and, harmonizing to Bakhtin, focal point on the grotesque facets of the organic structure is supposed to pull attending to its cosmopolitan nature and the corporate organic structure of the people, instead than the single biological organic structure. It is a jubilation of equality and the circle of life, and debasement, in which the grotesque organic structure plays a cardinal function, is hence a important component as it brings down to earth what has been raised to a high or abstract place. The Grotesque organic structure is one that is uncomplete and ‘contrary to the authoritative images of the finished, completed adult male ‘ ( Rabelais: p.25 ) . By stressing the cosmopolitan human elements of the organic structure, those parts involved in feeding, imbibing and sex, all people are leveled and brought together, so that ‘ [ T ] he single feels that he is an insoluble portion of the collectivity, a member of the people ‘s mass bodyaˆ¦ the people become cognizant of their animal, material bodily integrity and community ‘ ( Rabelais ; p.255 ) . Therefore, in the grotesque organic structure there is a focal point on the unfastened oral cavity and openings, on feeding, imbibing, conversation and Acts of the Apostless of a sexual nature.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, the geisha ‘s lives revolve around feeding and imbibing in teashops, and the pattern of selling a geisha ‘s virginity has a cardinal function in the novel and in the success of both Sayuri and Mameha as geisha. In some ways this usage of the grotesque organic structure contributes to the carnival component, for illustration, when Sayuri sleeps with Dr. Crab. This consequences in the high category, affluent, educated physician and the low category orphaned miss being brought down to earth, to an ‘indissoluble integrity ‘ ( Rabelais: p. 20 ) . This degrees the hierarchy that existed and puts them on the same plane. However, this is still debatable, as Dr. Crab paid a big amount of money for Sayuri ‘s virginity, and she tells the reader that ‘I kept reminding myself how much the Doctor had paid for this privilege ‘ ( p. 324 ) . In the act itself, although it should be one that puts them on the same degree, the character Sayuri ‘s consciousness reminds the reader that it is the Doctor ‘s wealth and superior place in society that enabled him to be at that place. Because of the record sum of money paid by Dr. Crab Sayuri is made celebrated, and all her debts are paid off. It hence establishes a hierarchy because she is raised from the degree of a amah to that of a geisha, in this sense giving Sayuri power and control. But it is besides something used to command her as it is arranged without her permission, and ab initio without her cognition. The manner the geishas are at the same time liberated and imprisoned is one time once more established, and the intents of the carnival images are once more deformed, or shown in a different visible radiation. While the grotesque organic structure should be a agency of overthrowing established orders, here it is turned around and used to rule and pull strings.

The ambivalent nature of the geisha ‘s being caused by the manner they ‘re positioned between carnival and official life, between release and limitation, is besides demonstrated in the bodily descriptions of the geisha, as they incorporate both grotesque and classical elements. The first geisha described by the storyteller is the 1 from the teashop in Senzuru, the description of whom I mentioned earlier in the essay. The storyteller draws a contrast between the geisha ‘s beautiful and sophisticated frock and her face, stating that ‘ [ H ] er dentitions protruded so severely that her lips did n’t quite cover them ‘ ( p. 27 ) . The unfastened oral cavity is an of import grotesque image and her dentitions exceed the boundaries of her ain organic structure ; they are monstrously overdone. We are presented with a similar contrast when introduced to Mother. Chiyo is once more ab initio focused on the beautiful elegance of her Kimono, and is shocked to happen her ‘hideous-looking ‘ with drooping tegument, and Mother ‘s oral cavity, that we are told subsequently ‘was much excessively large for her face and hung unfastened much of the clip ‘ , falls unfastened ‘like a trapdoor ‘ ( p. 41: p. 51 ) . Even the beautiful, classical looking geisha have elements of the grotesque. They paint their faces either with white pigment or with ‘western manner ‘ make-up, doing them look smooth and completed, but attending is drawn to their oral cavity by painting the lips a bright ruddy. Emphasis is besides placed on the sexual brushs of Hatsumomo, Mameha and Sayuri. They are all beautiful geisha who would likely be considered ‘classical ‘ , but this is contrasted by the attending drawn to their ‘grotesque ‘ , sexual contacts.

This combination of the classical and the grotesque, consistent with the equivocal nature of the bulk of the carnival images, is declarative of the ambivalent position of the geisha in the novel. They represent a interrupting off from regulations and ordinances in the carnival that they provide for the work forces they entertain, and this carnival function is signified by the monstrous component of their representation. However, they are capable to certain regulations and etiquettes in the manner they provide this carnival and are ever required to show a certain image to those detecting them, which is mirrored by the classical, finished looking organic structure they must make though their vesture and make-up. The fresh problematises images normally associated with the carnival and the function of those who can be described as representatives of carnival, thereby problematising carnival itself and what it stands for. Those elements that Bakhtin described as supplying ‘temporary release from the predominating truth and from the established order ‘ in Memoirs creates and conceals a different, but merely as constraining, order ( Rabelais: p. 10 ) . Carnival is controlled and the characteristics of carnival which should be used for release are used for imprisonment ; what Bakhtin argued to be insurgent and an onslaught on authorization Golden has used to depict the averment of authorization. Golden ‘s usage of the carnival accordingly prompts the inquiry ; can there of all time be true ‘carnival ‘ ? That is, is it truly possible to be liberated from authorization and happen true equality, or will this release and flight for one group of people ever result in another being oppressed and controlled? Although one description of the geisha parties tells us that the work forces ‘spent the eventide dance and vocalizing, and imbibing with the geisha ‘ , which is a carnivalesque description, this is an history of private parties held by business communities and blue bloods ( Golden: p. 330 ) . There remains a hierarchy, and this sort of carnival universe is non available to the poorer working categories. Throughout the novel it is merely those who are affluent who are given the chance to take part in the carnival that is depicted, and the poorness stricken and the lower categories normally feature merely as those who are oppressed by oppressive higher category figures, such as the amahs who are tyrannized by Hatsumomo, or who must fight to do their manner in a universe that is dominated by those higher category figures.

But one could reason that because Golden ‘s authorship liberates the voice of one who is oppressed, at last giving them the opportunity to talk out, it is still carnivalesque with respects to its agencies of representation, incarnating the attitude of carnival even if it problematises it as capable. Memoirs can be seen as carnivalised authorship because it liberates the voice of a capable kept under the control of others, foremost as a low, working category amah and so as a geisha, and her discourse is mobilized against authorization. Bakhtin said that the signifier of the novel could be used to emancipate different voices and sentiments, and by showing these different conflicting positions it could be democratic, or polyphonic. This democracy within a text can be used to overthrow an authorization that attempts to command by extinguishing opposing positions.

However there is a voice that remains laden, that is non given the opportunity to talk, and goes mostly unmentioned throughout the novel, and that is the married womans of the work forces. We are non frequently reminded of the married womans, but when we are, it acts as a daze and a surprise to the reader. We are reminded that the fairytale stoping Sayuri is hankering for is non all it seems, because her felicity may be at the cost of the married woman of the president. For Sayuri, the Chairman represents autonomy and freedom, and she dreams of holding a relationship with him in which they are peers instead than her being an inferior object. She mentions another geisha called Shizue who fulfilled this dream of holding a danna with whom there was common love and fondness, even though ‘he was n’t a affluent adult male, and she was n’t a beauty ‘ ( Golden: p. 337 ) . She is the enviousness of all the other geisha, who besides dream of get awaying the hierarchies in which they are confined, and ‘was considered by everyone in Gion to be the most fortunate of adult females ‘ ( p. 337 ) . It is interesting that she remains a geisha, bespeaking that she wishes to stay in the carnivalistic universe of laughter that ‘counteracts the glooming nonreversible functionary earnestness which seeks to absolutize the given conditions of being and the societal order ‘ , and she is considered so fortunate because she besides has the carnival that ‘brings the universe stopping point to adult male and adult male near to his fellow adult male ‘ ( Problems: p.133 ) . It is a universe without the hierarchies, and the force per unit areas and restraints of holding to ever conform to the wants of others. This is could be interpreted as an illustration within the novel that carnival, where there is equality and a acknowledgment of catholicity between the participants, is possible to accomplish. However, we may besides presume the possibility that Shizue had to stay a geisha because her danna already had a married woman, and could hence do her no more than his kept woman, as this sort of state of affairs is a common one within the novel. This contributes to the statement that carnival can non be achieved, because even when it is eventually obtained by Sayuri, the shadow of the married woman of the president still hovers in the background, reminding us that there is ever a group of people who are oppressed and remain capable to a hierarchy.

Golden presents a carnival universe from a different angle enabling us to reconsider its significance and range of possibility, and the manner carnival images are used and presented in his fresh suggests that it is debatable and unachievable. The manner the married womans are mostly left unmarked but on occasion brought to the outskirts of the novel, leting them to be glimpsed before traveling on and one time once more go forthing them behind, reminds and demonstrates to the reader that there is ever a group that is neglected. Even though the novel itself could be described as one that is carnivalised and emancipating, some voices are still smothered and kept on the borders. I would reason that this is knowing, exemplifying that there can ne’er be a state of affairs in which all people are genuinely levelled, made equal and liberated.

Word count – 4277


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