Bitter carnival : ressentiment and the abject hero by Michael André Bernstein

By Michael André Bernstein

"You humans positioned value in your lives. good, my lifestyles hasn't ever been vital to somebody. i don't have any guilt approximately anything," bragged the mass-murderer Charles Manson. "These youngsters that come at you with knives, they're your kids. You taught them. i did not educate them. . . . they're working within the streets--and they're coming correct at you!" whilst a true assassin accuses the society he has brutalized, we're stunned, yet we're delighted by means of a similar accusations after they are mouthed by means of 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 most unlikely house created by way of the intersection of the satanic and the servile. Bernstein indicates that we heroicize the Abject Hero simply because he represents a practice that has develop into a staple of our universal mythology, as seductive in mass tradition because it is in excessive artwork. relocating from an exam of classical Latin satire; via substantially new analyses of Diderot, Dostoevsky, and Cline; and culminating within the court docket testimony of Charles Manson, sour Carnival deals a revisionist rereading of the full culture of the "Saturnalian discussion" among masters and slaves, monarchs and fools, philosophers and madmen, electorate and malcontents. It contests the supposedly regenerative energy of the carnivalesque and demanding situations the pieties of utopian radicalism stylish in modern educational pondering. The readability of its argument and literary sort compel us to confront a robust predicament that engages probably the most valuable matters in literary reviews, ethics, cultural heritage, and demanding conception today.

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Tis the persecut- O TOTIENS SERVUS 49 ing spirit has raised the bantering one. . The greater the weight is, the bitterer will be the satire. The higher the slavery, the more exquisite the buffoonery. (Lord Shaftesbury, “An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humor”) Thus far, I have emphasized those elements in Davus’s criticisms that seem to cause Horace the greatest anxiety, or that strike most directly at the reassuring image the poet has constructed with such effort in his other satires.

Age, libertate Decembri, quando ita maiores voluerunt, utere; narra. [“I’ve been listening for some time, and wishing to speak to you, but as a slave I dare not. . ” O TOTIENS SERVUS 43 “Come, use the license December allows, since our fathers willed it so. ”] (1–2, 4–5) Similarly, at the satire’s conclusion, Horace reasserts his authority by threatening his slave, first playfully with stones and arrows (116), and then, more plausibly, with banishing Davus from the privileged position of household servant to the harsher duties of a farm laborer: Ocius hinc te ni rapis, accedes opera agro nona Sabino.

In rapid succession, Horace stands accused of wavering in his proclaimed values, of being divided in his desires, of a readiness to change his mind under circumstances that suggest rank opportunism, of hypocrisy in his self-description, and finally, of being even a greater fool (“stultior”) than is Davus himself (23– 45). The most interesting aspect of Davus’s catalogue is introduced with seeming casualness amidst the deluge of other charges: Horace is not only a weak man but a dependent and a parasite, as subject to Maecenas’s whims as the poet’s own scurrae, or hangers-on, are subject to his: si nusquam es forte vocatus ad cenam, laudas securum holus ac, velut usquam vinctus eas, ita te felicem dicis amasque, quod nusquam tibi sit potandum.

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