Carnival time! : Wilson Harris and the carnivalesque.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the growing appreciation of the importance of carnivalesque elements in the novels of Wilson Harris. Since all reading and criticism is partial, the introduction gives a brief summary of critical approaches to this aspect of the Harris's work. Building on the insights of these critics this study presents a short festive, folkloric and literary history of carnival from its origins, thus providing background to the celebration of the festival in the present-day Caribbean. Classic carnivalesque features are listed which, though suggestive rather than exhaustive, provide guiding criteria for the readings that follow. While not attempting a thorough-going exegesis of Harris's critical and philosophic writing - which reveal much about his understanding and usage of carnival - I finish my history of carnival with a brief exploration of his nonfictional contributions to the subject. The following chapters divide Harris's work into four broad phases and undertake readings of a selection of his novels up to what can be regarded as their culmination or climax in the novel Carnival. Although the readings are essentially thematic, concerned above all with the writer's carnivalesque vision as conveyed in the novels, there are frequent references to his narrative techniques and this builds towards some tentative conclusions about Harris's innovations of form and the implications of this for the art of the novel.