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 ‘folkfestivities of the carnival type’, particularly those of the Renaissance andMiddle Ages (Bakhtin, 1984: 4). According to Bakhtin (1984), the celebration ofcarnival provides opportunities for individuals to get together in public areasand act without restriction by authorities and official conventions; ittherefore represents a way to weaken or even erase hierarchical distinctionsand to pursue freedom and democracy.
Thus, Bakhtin claims that folk festivalculture evolved specifically to combat a reigning theocracy’s taboos andprohibitions (Gardiner, 1992). Bakhtin’s (1984) theory delineates three aspects ofcarnival: its participants, locations and speech patterns. In terms ofparticipants, because the medieval culture of folk humour embodied by carnivalsbelongs 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 andmarketplaces. Bakhtin suggests that public open areas such as town squarespermit free and familiar contact among people who are usually divided bybarriers of caste, property, profession and age. The speech patterndistinguishing carnivals is ‘the familiar language of the marketplace’ (ibid.
:17), including abusive language, profanities and oaths. Such speech patterns, whichare excluded from official speech, are filled with the carnival spiritprecisely because they break norms (Bakhtin, 1984). From these three elements, Bakhtin’s theory ofcarnival derives a universal spirit in which ‘all were considered equal duringcarnival’ (ibid.: 10) and all are allowed to openly show their true selveswithout restriction and bias. Thanks to its universality, the theory ofcarnival has been applied to many arts and humanities subjects, such aslinguistics, cultural studies, sociology and the like (Chen, 2000). In thisdissertation, the theory of carnival provides insights into audiovisualtranslation within a framework of three core values, as explained in thefollowing sections.