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"The Unbearable Lightness of Begging: Carnivalesque Laughter in the South Louisiana Mardi Gras"

"The Unbearable Lightness of Begging: Carnivalesque Laughter in the South Louisiana Mardi Gras"

Supported by slides and based on some theories on the nature of carnival laughter, I will explore the nature of the carnivalesque laughter that is at the heart of the South Louisiana Mardi Gras. This laughter is generated by the festive play of bands of masked and costumed "beggars" who roam the countryside gathering the ingredients for a communal gumbo.

In exchange for these ingredients, the Mardi Gras runners sing and dance for the members of the household. They also provide laughter by improvising visual, verbal, gestural and theatrical "jokes" during what can be some rather intense begging rituals that sometimes border on extortion. These "jokes" can be based on slapstick, political or social satire and parody; they often involve inversion, subversion and even perversion (gender, race, age, class, etc.); they can be simple, complex, innocent, edgy, clever, or obscene; and they work most effectively when the "punch line" is evident.

This carnivalesque laughter is often edgy, eschewing such niceties as political correctness, and resembling the nervous laughter generated by tickling. Indeed the strategies that produce this laughter are not unlike social tickling. The laughter can be heard generally throughout the crowd, but various factions are laughing for remarkably different reasons.

Instructor Dr. Barry Ancelet
Location La Jeunesse
Dates February 24
Time 3:00 - 4:00 PM
$45 until January 20
$55 after January 20
Cost covers the entire Spring 2014 SAGE series

Barry Jean Ancelet is a native Louisiana French-speaking Cajun, born in Church Point and raised in Lafayette. He graduated from the ULL with a BA in French in 1974. He received an MA in Folklore from Indiana University in 1977, and a doctorate in Etudes Creoles (anthropology and linguistics) from the Universite de Provence (Aix-Marseille I) in 1984. He has been on the faculty at U.L.-Lafayette since 1977, first as Director of the Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore, and later as a Professor of Folklore and Francophone Studies in the Department of Modern Languages, which he currently chairs.

He has given numerous papers and published numerous articles and several books on various aspects of Louisiana's Cajun and Creole cultures and languages.

He is interested in expanding the classroom through festivals, special concerts, records, museum exhibitions, documentary films, and television and radio programs (such as the "Rendez-vous des Cadiens," a weekly live radio show from the Liberty Theater in Eunice, Louisiana). He has served as a consultant and fieldworker for several documentary films.