Malanka, Carnival, Bakhtin, and the Embodiment of the Politics of Mockery

I would like to share an excerpt from my doctoral dissertation. The section “Poetics of imagination” is appropriate for the celebration of Malanka (feasts of Melania of Rome and Badil the Great). Ukrainians, Romanians, Russians, and Belarusians, celebrate the eve of the New Year (Vasyl/Basil) with boisterous and colorful parades. Dressed/disguised in costumes the festival is distinctly carnivalesque (like Mardi Gras). It is the communal embodiment of turning everything upside down and mocking the one-sidedness of our lives.  Here is what I wrote:

  Poetics of imagination.

The lack of goal setting, of interventions, and definitive strategies is itself a dialectically opposite way of proceeding in a world dominated by military metaphors and global economic conquest. In his reflections on the poetics of reverie, Gaston Bachelard (1971) notes that there is an identifiable difference between thinking and imagination. The thinking intellect is decidedly masculine, whereas dreams, reveries, daydreams, memories, and remembrance “are all indications of a need to make everything feminine which is enveloping and soft” (p. 29). Based on C. G. Jung’s psychology of the anima and animus, the contrasexual dimension of our psychic life will sit silently and come into expression in our dreams and daydreams, or in personal complexities. Even the headiest philosopher will, on occasion, suspend masculine designations and enter the realm of imagination by daydreaming. Authoritarian men who live their daily lives with military discipline and rigor will “become humble in the evening upon returning to the authority of the wife or aged mother” (p. 68) indicative of how anima figures present themselves in human relationships.


A psychology which embraces images and the imagination presents a counter-narrative, a dialectical opposite; at moments refreshing, at times horrifying, but nonetheless liberating. After the Bolshevik revolution, satire, laughter, and irony were prohibited and writers were subject to this imposition under fear of repression and arrest. In her introduction to Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World (1984), Krystyna Pomorska states that the fate of writers who continued in the literary tradition of Gogol and Dostoyevsky, rich in satire and parody, was to write clandestinely and work in the shadows. This testified to the Soviet government’s rejection of satire and self-irony, and was the sole reason that Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (1997), a parody of Stalin and the communist elite of Moscow, was not published until 1966, 26 years after his death in 1940.

Bakhtin’s (1984) works were also published many years after Stalin’s death. His historical analysis of the literary contribution of Rabelais, as an imaginal counterpoint to the repressive regulations of the Reformation, presented a lens for this literary critic’s keen ability of offering images of medieval parody and satire as an antidote to Soviet collective fear. Carnival, as a literary genre, fearlessly critiqued the monarchy and the Catholic Church with bawdy works that parodied monastic rule, church decrees, papal bulls, and sermons. Both secular and sacred worlds were turned upside down, the images and imagination flooding society with dialectical opposition. Even the Catholic liturgy did not escape, as liturgies for drunkards, gamblers, and the money-obsessed were staged and regarded as acceptable forms of travesty.

“We must, first of all, take into account the recognized freedom then enjoyed by parody. The Middle Ages, with varying degrees of qualification, respected the freedom of the fool’s cap and allotted a rather broad license to laughter and the laughing word” (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 72). It is the image of the fool and foolish imagination that subverts the monologue of official language and discourse, nurtures dialogic imagination, and the creation of raznorechie (heteroglossia), i.e. multiple, distinct, contradictory, illogical, and even irrational discourses (Bakhtin, 1984) The imaginal gaze opens new horizons of perspective when the fool is free to create and the collective is caught off guard to embrace what has been turned inside out.


We need to learn to embody protest; to mock and laugh, to confront the “kings of this world.”  They are fools, idiots, bigots and so much more…….

It is the tale of the Emporer’s Clothes.

Put on your costume and celebrate your freedoms!

Father Myron

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.