• Rabelais and His World

    Rabelais and His World

    • Rabelais and His World (Russian: Творчество Франсуа Рабле и народная культура средневековья и Ренессанса, Tvorčestvo Fransua Rable i narodnaja kul'tura srednevekov'ja i Renessansa; 1965) is a scholarly work which is considered one of Mikhail Bakhtin's most important texts and now a classic of Renaissance studies. In the work Bakhtin explores Gargantua and Pantagruel by the French Renaissance writer François Rabelais.

      Bakhtin declares that, for centuries, Rabelais’s book had been misunderstood, and claimed that Rabelais and His World clarified Rabelais's intentions. In Rabelais and His World, Bakhtin concerns himself with the openness of Gargantua and Pantagruel, however, the book itself also serves as an example of such openness.

      Bakhtin attempts two things: he seeks to recover sections of Gargantua and Pantagruel that, in the past, were either ignored or suppressed, and he conducts an analysis of the Renaissance social system in order to discover the balance between language that was permitted and language that was not. It is by means of this analysis that Bakhtin pinpoints two important subtexts: the first is carnival (carnivalesque) which Bakhtin describes as a social institution, and the second is grotesque realism which is defined as a literary mode. Thus, in Rabelais and His World Bakhtin studies the interaction between the social and the literary, as well as the meaning of the body.

      Bakhtin completed his book on Rabelais (titled Rabelais in the History of Realism) in 1940. After several attempts to get the book published fell through, it was submitted as a dissertation for the Candidate of Sciences degree at the Gorky Institute of World Literature in Moscow. At the dissertation's defense in 1946, all three official opponents were in favor of awarding Bakhtin a higher doctoral degree: the Doctor of Sciences, and their motion was accepted with a narrow majority vote. However, following an assault on the institute published in the press at the time, and after six years of repeated revisions and deliberations, USSR's VAK decided Bakhtin would only receive the Candidate of Sciences degree (roughly equivalent to a research doctorate). The book was eventually published in Russian in 1965, under the title Rabelais and Folk Culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Its 1968 English translation by Hélène Iswolsky was given the title, Rabelais and His World.

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    • Rabelais and His World