The grotesque body is a concept (a literary trope) ideated by Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin in his study of Francois Rabelais' work. The grotesque body is "a figure of unruly biological and social exchange" . Internalizing the grotesque body in his novel, Rabelais recast political conflicts in the dynamics of human physiology.
It is by means of this information that Bakhtin pinpoints two important subtexts: the first is carnival (carnivalesque) which Bakhtin describes as a social institution, and the second is grotesque realism (grotesque body) which is defined as a literary mode. Thus, in Rabelais and His World Bakhtin studies the interaction between the social and the literary, as well as the meaning of the body (Clark and Holquist 297-299).
Italian satirist Daniele Luttazzi explained: "satire exhibits the grotesque body, which is dominated by the primary needs ( eating, drinking, defecating, urinating, sex ), to celebrate the victory of life: the social and the corporeal are joyfully joint in something indivisible, universal and beneficial".
Bakhtin explained how the grotesque body is a celebration of the cycle of life: the grotesque body is a comic figure of profound ambivalence: its positive meaning is linked to birth/renewal and its negative meaning is linked to decay/death (Bakhtin, 308-317). In Rabelais' epoch (1500-1800) "it was appropriate to ridicule the king and clergy, to use dung and urine to degrade; this was not to just mock, it was to unleash what Bakhtin saw as the people's power, to renew and regenerate the entire social system. It was the power of the people's restive-carnival, a way to turn the official spectacle inside-out and upside down, just for a while; long enough to make an impression on the participating official stratum. With the advent of modernity (science, technology, industrial revolution), the mechanistic overtook the organic, and the officialdom no longer came to join in festive-carnival. The bodily lower stratum of humor dualized from the upper stratum." (Boje 2004)
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