Rabelais and His World

Rabelais and His World by Mikhail Bakhtin, translated by Hélène Iswolsky, from Indiana University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Mikhail Bakhtin Hélène Iswolsky Rabelais and His World from Indiana University Press

“This classic work by the Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin (1895–1975 examines popular humor and folk culture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, especially the world of carnival, as depicted in the novels of François Rabelais. In Bakhtin’s view, the spirit of laughter and irreverence prevailing at carnival time is the dominant quality of Rabelais’s art. The work of both Rabelais and Bakhtin springs from an age of revolution, and each reflects a particularly open sense of the literary text. For both, carnival, with its emphasis on the earthy and the grotesque, signified the symbolic destruction of authority and official culture and the assertion of popular renewal. Bakhtin evokes carnival as a special, creative life form, with its own space and time.

Written in the Soviet Union in the 1930s at the height of the Stalin era but published there for the first time only in 1965, Bakhtin’s book is both a major contribution to the poetics of the novel and a subtle condemnation of the degeneration of the Russian revolution into Stalinist orthodoxy. One of the essential texts of a theorist who is rapidly becoming a major reference in contemporary thought, Rabelais and His World is essential reading for anyone interested in problems of language and text in a cultural interpretation.” — back cover