The Carnivalesque-or-The Art of Subversion of Authoritarianism

Sticks and Stones -or- The Third Reich of Dreams

In "Sticks and Stones" Jack Zipes whose work is greatly appreciated, writes; "What Bahktin described as the radical carnivalesque humor in his book on Rabelais is impossible today because we cannot turn society on its head. The revolutionary has become impossible. We are left with truncated forms and mad gestures that belittle authoritarianism but offer little hope for alternative forms of communication." 

Dreams dreamt on this planet "turn society on its head" every night, most likely someone is dreaming about the carnivalesque as we speak. Revolutionary dreams against authoritarianism find expression in our nightly mentations. A vast number of people living on our planet, live under authoritarian regimes who politically control communication, behaviour and dreams. Hitler and his propaganda machinery had learned how to psychologically control the minds and dreams of the German masses, read the dream interpretation, "The Third Reich of Dreams". 

This dream interpretation discusses my first experience with Swiss carnival, which subverts the authoritarian social order via a form of "Revolutionary Criticism" (1). 

Basler Carnival -or- The Psychosomatic Bridge to the Inner World 

My experience with Fasnacht (carnival) began nearly 35 years ago, when I visited the Basler carnival for the first time. It is safe to say that as a person who had grown up in Canada, my first visual experience of Swiss ribaldry, was one of disorientation and shock. I had never experienced anything like it. The carnival crowd makes rhetorical light of the devil, of sexuality and everyday public and political life in general. Carnival is celebrated in many countries round the planet, each with their own brand and flavour. The dream interpretation "The Holy Prostitute" finds its literary topos and expression in carnival, sexual personae, the body politic and the grotesque body. Freud's "Revolutionary Dream" (read interpretation) can be seen and read in the poetic light of carnival and constitutes his depth psychological brand of ribald subversion of the body politic

In "The Dream and the Underworld" James Hillman provides the reader with an oneiric archetypal bridge into the inner world and psychological interior of humanity. Hillman discusses the carnival dreams of three women. The first dream has a woman "chased through streets of a shady district by obscene and menacing carnival figures." The second woman brings a dream to therapy, she "hears the frightening tinny music of a riotous Mardi Gras band, coming closer. She awakes in panic, and believes for an instant that she is in an analytic room." Hillman believes that, "In fact, the analytical room and the band that riots are part of the same image. The image required her to give an analytical ear to what the loose music, this band of her soul, was playing in her and with her. The Lenten ashes of Ash Wednesday and the carnival music of Fat Tuesday belong in the same image and construct each other." A third woman's dream, finds her "being at a costume party in which all the figures are masked. People dance individually, alone in corners like madmen. The dream-ego is whirled around in a dance with a partner whom she does not recognize or cannot see and awakens in terror because no one is real." 

In this carnival context of an "upside-down" world, Hillman sees "Freud and Jung", as "two old clowns." It is in this carnivalesque sense, that Freud and Jung can be seen as revolutionary dreamers and critics. They sought a mythic sea change in the collective dream, thought and communication patterns of humanity. Many dream interpretations posted at the International Institute for Dream Research website use the subversive literary topos of carnival, dark romaniticism and the grotesque body, here are a few. 

Further Reading: 

  1. Terry Eagleton, "Walter Benjamin or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism"
  2. Jack Zipes, "Literature and Literary Theory: Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion"
  3. Henry Giroux, "Against the New Authoritarianism"
  4. William Sargant, "Battle for the mind: a physiology of conversion and brainwashing"
  5. Augusto, Boal, Theater of the Oppressed


All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.