Macquarie University
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Contemporary carnivals: a Bakhtinian approach to popular humorous children's literature

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posted on 2022-03-28, 00:50 authored by Colleen Zurowski
This thesis examines the recent emergence of humorous junior fiction which aims to engage newly independent readers through complex multimodal narrative forms. The popularity of these books means that many young readers are developing literacy skills and ideas about the world as they read them, but historically the genre has been marginalised within children’s literary studies because of its popular-culture orientation. This thesis uses the Bakhtinian concept of carnival to examine two junior fiction series popular with young male readers: the American Captain Underpants series and the Australian Treehouse series. Central to the thesis is Bakhtin’s notion of carnival as a temporary space away from official culture, and an analysis of how the visual and verbal discourses of these texts construct an active reader position within a space which resembles a kind of contemporary carnival. I argue that the nature of carnival laughter and the grotesque in the texts provide young readers with a suite of sophisticated critical literacy skills. However, the texts maintain a construction of masculinity that is, in contrast, conservative. I argue that there are both positive and negative implications of the popularity of these texts, much like the ambivalence inherent in Bakhtin’s carnival.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Carnival spaces : come on up! -- Carnival humour : lots-o-laffs! -- Carnival grotesque : gross is great! -- Gender at the carnival : Bakhtin's boys -- Conclusion -- Works cited.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 65-70

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Victoria Flanagan


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1 online resource (70 pages) illustrations

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