Monday, July 23, 2012

But you don't have to take my word for it

So I've been doing a lot of reading for my dissertation. I'm working on the chapter that I've been dreading, Chapter One, also known in academic circles as the Theoretical Grounding for everything else I write. That means reading what other academics have written and explaining why what I'm writing is totally based in their Very Important Ideas and not just being Pulled Out Of My Ass.

In the course of reading the Very Important Work On the Meaning Of Laughter also known as Rabelais and His World by Mikhail Bakhtin, I have discovered:

jokes about asses (both donkeys and anuses)
snark about Stalin disguised as snark about the Catholic church
grand pronouncements about the Renaissance as the pinnacle of all laughter throughout history
funny old-fashioned translations ("gay" for "happy;" "swab" for what I believe should be "douche")
odd asides about the campiness of pre-16th-century monastic humor
irritating uses of the royal "we"

It's not as bad as I thought it would be, though I have a constant desire to remind the translator that Bakhtin is discussing jokes about shit and sex; is "the material bodily lower stratum" really the best phrase to use?

On the other hand, it's not as good as Wayne Koestenbaum's The Anatomy of Harpo Marx, which is ridiculous and has pictures and uses the phrase "duck-mouth" a lot.

Having made it through the first 150 pages out of 450 (introduction and chapter one), I am putting down Rabelais to start Bakhtin's Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, which promises to be just as pleasant and just as annoying, from what I recall of it. At least this book wasn't his dissertation, so it hopefully won't have as many long arguments with everyone who has every written anything relating to the author he is discussing.

I would like to point out, by way of advertisement for my own dissertation, that it will not be 450 pages long.

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