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Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.



Ready for funnel cake? Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin sure was. He used the word carnivalesque to refer to moments when traditional rules and order are put aside, the world is turned upside down, and the routines of daily life are suspended. The term comes from the carnival celebrations during which people in Catholic cultures wear masks and have massive street parties right before Lent—like during Mardi Gras. The carnivalesque can indicate excitement, revelry, danger, and a certain topsy-turviness to the way the world works.

For example, all of the spells and enchantments in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream create a carnivalesque atmosphere for the lovers, in which the normal rules of life just don't apply.