Carnivalization – Bakhtin Dostoevsky Criticism

Bakhtin argues that Dostoevsky always wrote in opposition to modern tendencies toward the “reification of man”—the turning of human beings into objects (scientific, economic, social, etc.), enclosing them in an alien web of definition and causation, robbing them of freedom and responsibility.[56] ‘Carnivalization‘ is a term used by Bakhtin to describe the techniques Dostoevsky uses to disarm this increasingly ubiquitous enemy and make true intersubjective dialogue possible. The concept suggests an ethos where normal hierarchies, social roles, proper behaviors and assumed truths are subverted in favor of the “joyful relativity” of free participation in the festival. In The Idiot, everything revolves around the two central carnival figures of the “idiot” and the “madwoman”, and consequently “all of life is carnivalized, turned into a ‘world inside out’: traditional plot situations radically change their meaning, there develops a dynamic, carnivalistic play of sharp contrasts, unexpected shifts and changes”.[57] Prince Myshkin and Nastasya Filippovna are characters that inherently elude conventional social definition, or—as Bakhtin puts it—anything that might limit their “pure humanness”. The carnival atmosphere that develops around them in each situation and dialogue (“bright and joyous” in Myshkin’s case, “dark and infernal” in Nastasya Filippovna’s) allows Dostoevsky to “expose a different side of life to himself and to the reader, to spy upon and depict in that life certain new, unknown depths and possibilities.”[58]