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Carnival Theater: Uruguay’s Popular Performers and National Culture

Gustavo Remedi
Translated by Amy Ferlazzo
Volume: 15
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Carnival Theater
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the cultural practices of the lower classes and specifically on the productions of the murgas, Carnival Theater is a consideration of Uruguayan society’s identity crisis and subsequent redefinition in the wake of the regimes of the 1970s. A revealing work of cultural criticism, the book proposes a new set of criteria for the critique of national culture._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9081-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Prologue: Metaphors for Approaching National Culture
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    Recent and dramatic transformations in the economies, societies, politics, and cultures of Latin America demand a response from the humanities, and particularly from literary criticism. The human sciences must contend with four sets of issues: first, the constant crisis of Latin America’s national cultures, which are continuously disarticulated and reorganized through the realignments and restructurings of the transnational or global economic order;¹ second, the pervasive influence of the media, which contributes to the formation of social subjectivities across national borders; third, the erosion of the public sphere, which has been diminished, corporatized,² bureaucratized, or shattered; and fourth, the insufficiencies, confusions,...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. One The Interpretation of National Culture from the Site of Popular Cultural Practice
    (pp. 1-55)

    For a long time and because of the particular notion of culture in circulation,¹ the national culture of Uruguay has been conceived as an accumulation of artifacts that includes only a few privileged literary works. These works were written and organized according to European forms and conventions (the essay, novel, poetry, and theater). The canon excluded many of the works produced within the national culture, and relatively few texts were considered exemplary or principal. At the same time, the concept of the “cultured Uruguayans” emerged. This minority possessed and enjoyed a certain cultural capital. In particular, they knew how to...

  6. Two To Open Up the Night: Carnival and the Struggle for a National, Democratic, and Popular Order
    (pp. 56-99)

    Before turning to themurgasof the 1980s, I will consider their appearances during the late 1960s and early 1970s, through the gradual militarization of Uruguayan society and particularly at the moment of the coup d’état. For Carvalho Neto, themurgacharacterized itself by critiquing and ridiculing current themes and events.² Official regulations of the period stipulated that themurgaswere to “execute songs of wholesome humor or critique, on musical compositions or current themes, excluding all obscene words, gestures, allusions.”³ Within these limitations, themurgaswere instructed to express the tragicomic meaning of existence, and the performer was expected...

  7. Three Theology of Carnival: The Religious Masks of Carnivalesque Theater
    (pp. 100-127)

    For themurgasof Uruguay’s Carnival, Harlequin is a revered symbol and character, like Columbine or Pierrot, who remains elusive, ever changing, and eccentric. In Italian and French theater, his origin, history, and identity unfold as a spectrum of varied apparitions, signs, and associations. At times Harlequin is no more than the servant, alternately (or simultaneously) foolish, servile, scheming, comedic, tricky, foul-mouthed, eloquent, silent, or terse. With a costume of acrobatic movements, a face mask of large black circles surrounding the eyes, a dizzying speech, a jester’s cap (à la Francis I, with a rabbit or fox tail), a horn...

  8. Four Bodies, Costumes, and Characters
    (pp. 128-151)

    One of the greatest aspects of themurgas’recent history is their association with the struggle for human rights. Notwithstanding some omissions and contradictions, including a few that are profound and grotesque, themurgashave become principal contributors to the affirmation, promotion, and defense of human rights in Uruguay. In their forms of expression, communication, and education, themurgas’mechanism of enunciation is a particularly accessible and apt instrument for promoting human rights. Themurgas’themes reflect an increasing concern for human rights, and they have adopted certain techniques to promote these themes in their work. In addition, institutions such...

  9. Five Carnival Celebrates the National Popular Epic
    (pp. 152-176)

    Recent literary criticism has dedicated more time and energy than ever before to the themes of Carnival and the carnivalesque in literature. This focus reflects a desire to recuperate the material, sensual, corporal, physiological, erotic, scatological, and playful dimensions of human experience, all of which have been simultaneously created and repressed by history and civilization. Critics have awakened Caliban to replace Ariel, rediscovered Bakhtin’s critical work about popular culture in the Middle Ages and the Rabelaisian novel, and suggested a rereading of the classics from this new angle. They read the destabilizing, therapeutic, and potential energy of play, humor, the...

  10. Conclusion: From the Garden of the Comparsas
    (pp. 177-180)

    Themurgasdo not advance an erratic sensibility marked by defeat, confusion, disorientation, disbelief, amnesia, the loss of historical, ethical, or political referents or the meaning of history and life, the inability to discern (to escape the seduction of appearances, the truculent character of languages, the cobwebs of television’s fantastic world), and the incapacity to universalize, make links, and establish continuities. Instead they offer a set of certainties and fundamental, identifying referents for a pending mobilization toward sociopolitical emancipation. This context is critical to understanding the presence and recurrent reunion in which people convene around themurgas,where they meet...

  11. Appendix: Librettos of Principal Murgas from the Montevideo Carnival, 1988
    (pp. 181-186)
    (pp. 187-200)
    (pp. 201-213)
    (pp. 214-228)
    (pp. 229-240)
    (pp. 241-249)
    (pp. 250-259)
    (pp. 260-268)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 269-290)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-291)