The Carnivalesque Laughter of Flannery O'Connor

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Title: The Carnivalesque Laughter of Flannery O'Connor
Author: Cook, Jonathan Neil
Advisors: Dr. Barbara Bennett, Committee Chair
Abstract: Critics often point out the incongruity between Flannery O'Connor's grotesque humor and her self-proclaimed Christian purpose. This paper uses Mikhail Bakhtin's conception of the carnivalesque to argue that O'Connor's use of grotesque humor is essential to her purpose. Both O'Connor and Bakhtin distrust all-encompassing ideologies that claim to authoritatively categorize and explain existence. In the carnivalesque laughter created by the grotesque realism of Rabelais, Bakhtin finds a way to undermine worldviews that claim ultimate authority. Similarly, O'Connor uses concrete and grotesque, but humorous images to displace her readers' expectations and undermine their natural desire to explain existence at the expense of mystery. By opening her readers up to mystery, O'Connor prepares them to see the world, and the people in it, as they truly are: complex, flawed, and beautiful.
Date: 2006-04-28
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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