Bakhtin a Corner
February 23, 2009 7:04 PM   Subscribe

What are the most insightful interpretative writings about carnival/carnaval and mardi gras?

Tomorrow is my first Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and I've been thinking about how such a vast and complicated annual event evades any attempt to articulate its social meaning in any singular, definitive way.

I have also been to Carnaval in northeast Brazil, and I came away similarly exhilarated, thinking about how its significance is so impossibly messy and multiple. It's a tricky thing to write about.

What are the most insightful writings interpreting carnival/carnaval and mardi gras? I'm thinking mostly about the Western Hemisphere: Brazil, Cuba, New Orleans, Mobile, Trinidad... but a piece about European Carnivals could potentially also be relevant.

Non-fiction essays, academic articles and depictions in literary fiction are all what I am interested in gathering.
posted by umbĂș to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not that well informed on this topic, but I remembered that Louisiana has a great folklore society with a well-developed website. Searching that I found:

The Varieties of Mardi Gras

Cajun Women and the Country Mardi Gras Tradition

Dance for a Chicken: the Cajun Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Indians: Culture and Community Empowerment

...and there's more.
posted by Miko at 7:25 PM on February 23, 2009

Richard Feynman had some great essays about his time in Rio and carnaval. I believe a section of his wonderful book "Surely you're joking Mr Faynman" is devoted to the topic. You can find the full text here.
posted by willie11 at 7:29 PM on February 23, 2009

Samba by Alma Guillermoprieto covers the how and why of Rio's carnival quite well.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:03 PM on February 23, 2009

You might be interested in Bakhtin's writings on the carnivalesque, specifically 'Rabelais and His World'. It's Renaissance and French, but it's some pretty important theorizing on the broad function of carnival and its representation in literature.
posted by Emilyisnow at 12:50 AM on February 24, 2009

Oh der...I just saw your title. Ignore me.
posted by Emilyisnow at 12:51 AM on February 24, 2009

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