In in public areas and act without restriction by

In the 1980s, Soviet cultural theorist Mikhail Bakhtin
(1984) fully explored the concept of carnival in his work Rabelais and His World.
Bakhtin’s interpretation of carnival is mainly based on the study of ‘folk
festivities of the carnival type’, particularly those of the Renaissance and
Middle Ages (Bakhtin, 1984: 4). According to Bakhtin (1984), the celebration of
carnival provides opportunities for individuals to get together in public areas
and act without restriction by authorities and official conventions; it
therefore represents a way to weaken or even erase hierarchical distinctions
and to pursue freedom and democracy. Thus, Bakhtin claims that folk festival
culture evolved specifically to combat a reigning theocracy’s taboos and
prohibitions (Gardiner, 1992).


Bakhtin’s (1984) theory delineates three aspects of
carnival: its participants, locations and speech patterns. In terms of
participants, because the medieval culture of folk humour embodied by carnivals
belongs to all people, the celebration of carnival welcomed every individual,
regardless of their social status, age, race or other characteristics (Bakhtin,
1984). As for location, carnivals are typically held in public town squares and
marketplaces. Bakhtin suggests that public open areas such as town squares
permit free and familiar contact among people who are usually divided by
barriers of caste, property, profession and age. The speech pattern
distinguishing carnivals is ‘the familiar language of the marketplace’ (ibid.:
17), including abusive language, profanities and oaths. Such speech patterns, which
are excluded from official speech, are filled with the carnival spirit
precisely because they break norms (Bakhtin, 1984).

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From these three elements, Bakhtin’s theory of
carnival derives a universal spirit in which ‘all were considered equal during
carnival’ (ibid.: 10) and all are allowed to openly show their true selves
without restriction and bias. Thanks to its universality, the theory of
carnival has been applied to many arts and humanities subjects, such as
linguistics, cultural studies, sociology and the like (Chen, 2000). In this
dissertation, the theory of carnival provides insights into audiovisual
translation within a framework of three core values, as explained in the
following sections.