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Carnival of Words: Applying Bakhtin to Spoken Word Poetry

1 May 2011


[From the Introduction]

Citizens and senators alike have cited the phrase "United We Stand," yet many Americans doubt this platitude. The wage gap between the rich and poor widens each year, resulting in one percent ofthe population owning more than a quarter of the nation's wealth (William). Gender, ethnic, and racial prejudices endure despite numerous struggles for equality, including the election of an African American President. Only last year, a southern GOP chairman "joked" how his dog should receive welfare because it's "black, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English, and has no frigging clue who his Daddy is" (Payne). Standing united about any topic seems unlikely in such a socially and politically stratified climate, and rather than working together to heal divisions, our political parties grow increasingly polarized. Yet even as the climate has grown more volatile, an alternative trend has increased both its presence and popularity. Camivalesque spaces in American culture are providing platforms for transgressing these power structures and culturally defined boundaries of identity. Particularly, Spoken Word Poetry exemplifies a carnivalesque space, allowing to reverse social hierarchies in ways seemingly impossible otherwise given the inequities. Spoken Word creates a Carnivalesque space in America by challenging power structures, re-imagining the body, utilizing all-inclusive humor, and building a strong sense of community.


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