By Michael André Bernstein

"You humans placed value in your lives. good, my lifestyles hasn't ever been vital to a person. i don't have any guilt approximately anything," bragged the mass-murderer Charles Manson. "These teenagers that come at you with knives, they're your kids. You taught them. i did not train them. . . . they're operating within the streets--and they're coming correct at you!" while a true assassin accuses the society he has brutalized, we're stunned, yet we're delighted through an identical accusations once they are mouthed via a fictional insurgent, outlaw, or monster. In sour Carnival, Michael Andr Bernstein explores this contradiction and defines a brand new determine: the Abject Hero. status on the junction of contestation and conformity, the Abject Hero occupies the logically very unlikely house created by means of the intersection of the satanic and the servile. Bernstein exhibits that we heroicize the Abject Hero simply because he represents a practice that has turn into a staple of our universal mythology, as seductive in mass tradition because it is in excessive paintings. relocating from an exam of classical Latin satire; via extensively new analyses of Diderot, Dostoevsky, and Cline; and culminating within the court docket testimony of Charles Manson, sour Carnival bargains a revisionist rereading of the complete culture of the "Saturnalian discussion" among masters and slaves, monarchs and fools, philosophers and madmen, voters and malcontents. It contests the supposedly regenerative energy of the carnivalesque and demanding situations the pieties of utopian radicalism trendy in modern educational considering. The readability of its argument and literary kind compel us to confront a robust predicament that engages essentially the most significant concerns in literary reports, ethics, cultural background, and demanding concept today.

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For the Stoics, a refusal to recognize one’s true situation is evidence of folly and a guarantee that one will remain forever a slave, in the fullest sense 48 CHAPTER TWO of that word. It is in contrast to this quite specific view of Horace’s nature as enslaved by self-deception that Davus embarks on the portrait of the noble sage, free from outside control or untamed desires (83–88). The Stoic wise man lives self-containedly, “et in se ipso totus [complete within himself]” (86), in vivid opposition to men like Priscus, who lead lives of random inconstancy.

Particularly in Céline’s novels, characters tend to fluctuate between the two states, exhibiting traits of both abjection and ressentiment in the course of the narrative. In Dostoevsky, though, one can schematize the differences in more clear-cut ways, since he presents, along with abject and ressentiment-riddled souls like The Brothers Karamazov’s Smerdyakov, characters like The Idiot’s Lebedyev, who are thoroughly abject but with none of the murderous desires of ressentiment. Criticism has become quite comfortable with the figure of the daemonic rebel, and, at least in its Nietzschean mode, with the man of ressentiment, but a certain frisson of fallen splendor still seems to be necessary in order to attract the critic’s attention.

The arbitrary appropriation of Saturnalian imagery, rather than any close attention to the history of the rite, has also shaped recurrent efforts to inaugurate a new carnival. That such attempts have usually been ideologically inspired, and intended, especially in the last two centuries, to serve direct political ends, will become increasingly evident in the course of this book. And since it is precisely the uses of, and longing for, a new Saturnalia that most concerns me, I want to focus on the Saturnalia primarily as represented in a fictional narrative or theoretical speculation and will scrutinize the historical and anthropological records only when they can directly illuminate the image of the carnival as a specifically literary and speculative topos.

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