The Carnivalesque in George MacDonald’s The Light Princess

Osama Jarrar


In this article, I apply Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of carnival to an analysis of George MacDonald’s The Light Princess (1864). First, I define the concept of ‘carnival’ as explained in Bakhtin’s Rabelais and his World (1965). The subversive characteristic of the carnival which Bakhtin writes of is paramount in fantasy literature, of which The Light Princess exemplifies various elements. Brian Attebery says, “fantastic literature, as a literature that provokes reinterpretations of ‘reality’ and the boundaries of what is known and accepted, plays an important role in Bakhtin’s criticism” (117). Second, I provide an overview of various critical responses to the ideological function of carnival, applying a special focus on how children’s literature criticism benefits from carnival by referring to critics such as John Stephens and Maria Nikolajeva. Finally, I examine ways in which MacDonald uses the carnivalesque mode to convey his ideas of social reform.


Carnival; Humour; Parody; Children’s literature

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