Each year in the weeks preceding the deprivations of Lent, the Andalusian region of southern Spain erupts into madcap depravity, during a February carnival of riotous celebration. Carnival features subversive songs, burlesques and skits, transvestite parades, and public persecution of communal offenders, along with mournful elegies and heartfelt panegyrics. In this lively book, anthropologist David D. Gilmore explores the meanings of Andalusian carnival, focusing particular attention on the songs, or coplas. He offers translations of many of these carnival productions and mines the rich vein of oral literature for a new understanding of the ways in which the Andalusian people interpret and negotiate their world.
Not only does carnival provide many insights into ritual behavior and folk art in Spain but, Gilmore shows, the festival also offers similar insights into rituals of revelry and disinhibition elsewhere, whether mumming, Mardi Gras, Fasching, or Walpurgisnacht. In a fresh perspective on carnival, he reveals that in Spain the lower classes mix abuse of elites with a surprising degree of respect and even veneration. Gilmore concludes that Andalusian carnival is less about revolution or politics per se than about the inescapable ambivalence of all human feeling.
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