CFP: [20th] Bakhtin Conference/Timothy Findley

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Brian Kennedy
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Panel Proposal: Bakhtin, Carnival Violence, and War
Brian Kennedy, PhD

This special session to be held at the 13th International Bakhtin
Conference will take advantage of the conference’s setting in Canada to
triangulate the ideas of carnival violence, warfare, and group identity
through investigation of Bakhtin’s theories and interpretation of Canadian
novelist Timothy Findley’s The Wars.

As is well known, for Bakhtin carnival time presented an opportunity to
evade the press of daily life and take on a new identity as part of a group
mutually celebrating the overturning of familiar hierarchies. However, the
converse of carnival’s creation of identity is the lingering effect of
carnival violence in non-carnival time, with carnival continuing its work
after life has gone back to “normal.”

Extending these ideas into the present, one might read the campaigns of
war, as mechanized versions of medieval carnival. Doing so, then, would
allow one to regard war as more than just horror. It would allow it to
become a basis of identity creation, both during and after, for both
participants and countries.

In the case of Canada, for instance, its reputation as a peace-loving
country is belied by the common perception that its sense of itself as a
united entity began not at Confederation in 1867, but during the violent
conflicts of WW1, particularly the battle of Vimy Ridge. So strong is this
national myth that nearly 90 years after the conclusion of WW1, novels
about the war continue to be written by the country’s best writers.
Findley’s is but one of a strain reaching into the present (Pat Barker and
Alan Cumyn are two other contemporary notables in this tradition). Thus if
one is to come to grips with Canadian literature and the representation of
Canada therein, it seems essential to begin by thinking through the nature
of war’s violence.

Specifically in the instance of war as represented in The Wars, the
discussion might center on how identity is created in the psyches of
participants through their experience of violent acts, what the
after-effects of violence are, or how this identity extends to the group to
the nation. However, panelists are invited to take their papers in any
direction they choose. Possibilities include offering readings which
explain the violence of warfare in carnival terms, connecting what Findley
does in the novel with historical incidents of violence, offering a reading
of Canadian identity which takes Findley’s novel as an indicator of the
historical measure of the country’s part in WW1, or others.

The session chair, in addition to presenting a paper, will synthesize the
panel’s offerings in relation to each other and to the novel in question,
creating a forum for discussion which will allow for discussion of
Bakhtin’s notions and their application to violence, war, and The Wars.

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Received on Sun Feb 24 2008 - 23:57:39 EST