Festival and the laughter of being

Kevin McHugh, Ann M. Fletchall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We present a performance in festival laughter that unfolds in three movements. Movement I traces the emergence and proliferation of Renaissance "faires" in America as spectacle, a Rabelaisian landscape of pleasure and excess that speaks to nostalgia and escape as cultural elixirs. In Movement II, we sketch the history of festival and wink to Ren Fest as contemporary expression of the carnivalesque, sanitized remnants of transgression and subversion that marked premodern carnivals and festivals. This catapults us to the third, and culminating, movement - an eruption in festival laughter that reverberates and shakes high-minded seriousness, leaving in its wake questions of being qua becoming. Our entanglement in laughter moves in streams of anti- or nonrepresentational thought, most notably that of Georges Bataille. Laughter is spontaneous, a contagion that "communicates" that we beings called human are thoroughly relational, most united in "senseless" detachment. We end the performance with a coda, sounding eruptions of laughter as moments of the unexpected, moments of vitality, moments of communitas ripe with possibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-394
Number of pages14
JournalSpace and Culture
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Georges Bataille
  • affective geographies
  • festival
  • laughter
  • relational being
  • spectacle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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