Location: S.S209 ARIA attic, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp

Time: 14h30-17h, unless communicated otherwise

Target audience: junior academic and artistic researchers

In Rabelais and His World (1984), Mikhail Bakhtin traced the influence of the carnival and the “carnivalesque” in European early modern culture, ranging from the market space to literary works. The carnivalesque mode is characterized by laughter, the profane, exuberance, and the presence of “grotesque” bodies. Its most important feature, however, is the temporary suspension and subversion of supposedly fixed norms and boundaries — meaning that the dead can resurrect and fools can become kings. As such, it is an expression of a living and transgressive aesthetic that manifests itself in relation to power structures, ideologies, and institutions. Bakhtin’s theory should be framed within a broader postmodern belief that culture is in essence centered around dialogue, polyphony, and innovation and therefore has a particular political potential. This session will address the carnivalesque from a theoretical angle and discuss its possibilities and limits when applied to two case studies, Willem van der Hoeven’s popular pantomime Arlequin, tovenaar en barbier (1730) and a 1801 carnival festivity in Haarlem.

Preparatory readings

  1. McGehee, Scott. “The Pre-Eminence of the Actor in Renaissance Context: Subverting the Social Order”, in The Routledge Companion to Commedia dell’Arte, edited by Judith Chaffee and Oliver Crick. New York, 2015, 9-16.
  2. Smith, Joy L. “The Dutch Carnivalesque: Blackface, Play, and Zwarte Piet,” in Dutch Racism: Intersecting: Place, Sex, and Race, edited by Philomena Essed and Isabel Hoving. Amsterdam/New York, 2014, 219-238.
  3. Isherwood, Robert M. “Entertainment in the Parisian Fairs in the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of Modern History, 53.1 (1981), 24-48.
Sarah J. Adams 

is an FWO postdoctoral researcher at Ghent University and the University of Antwerp, where she explores the modes, scenarios, tropes, and techniques used to design “Blackness” on the comic Dutch stage and investigates the different functions of these modes of representation before the heyday of minstrel culture. She has published on the construction of whiteness and Dutch metropolitan representations of “race” and slavery in several peer-reviewed journals. A public edition of her PhD thesis on antislavery theatre will be published with Amsterdam University Press in 2022. Sarah is co-editor, together with Jenna M. Gibbs and Wendy Sutherland, of Staging Slavery Around 1800: Performances of Colonial Slavery and Race from International Perspectives (contracted with Routledge).