Beneath Lowry’s Carnival: The Abject in Under the Volcano

2017-05-23T00:30:44Z (GMT) by Andrew McLeod
The cacophony of carnival rings loudly through English novelist Malcolm Lowry’s 1947 work Under the Volcano, often viewed as one of the major novels of the twentieth century. As Jonathan Arac observes in his “pioneer- ing”4 essay on Lowry’s magnum opus, that sense of carnival arises from not only the imagery and themes of Under the Volcano, but also from its form. However, despite the grotesques, the ferris wheels, the hetero- glossia, and the echoes of laughter that pervade the novel, a carnivalesque approach to Under the Volcano creates contortions and uncomfortable unities within the text. To consider the abundance of carnival tropes in Under the Volcano to be indicative of a Mikhail Bakhtinian “carnival sense of the world” ultimately proves reductive and problematic. Many of those tropes are present, as are other Bakhtinian trademarks, but the combined effect of these themes and forms is ultimately far-removed from the carnival form Bakhtin describes.