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The liberating and subversive influence of popular humour on the literary tradition, according to the theory propounded by the Russian linguist Mikhail Bakhtin in his works Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (1929) and Rabelais and his World (1965). Bakhtin argued that the overturning of hierarchies in popular carnival—its mingling of the sacred with the profane, the sublime with the ridiculous—lies behind the most ‘open’ (dialogic or polyphonic) literary genres, notably Menippean satire and the novel, especially since the Renaissance. Carnivalized literary forms allow alternative voices to dethrone the authority of official culture: Rabelais, for example, subverts the asceticism of the medieval Church by giving free rein to the bodily profanity of folk festivities. Adjective: carnivalistic or carnivalesque.

Subjects: Literature.

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