This paper explores the representations of Bakhtin’s notion of the Carnival in two revisioned historical plays of Kee Thuan Chye. As a firm believer of freedom of expression, Kee Thuan Chye employs his plays as a medium to express his criticism towards and resistance against authority. His plays We Could **** You, Mr. Birch (1994) and Swordfish, then the Concubine (2009) form the corpus of this study. This study investigates how Bakhtin’s notion of the Carnival is represented in the plays which are reconstructions of history. Specifically, the constructs of the Carnival like the reversal of social hierarchy, grotesque realism, ambivalent laughter as a form of mockery, and self-fashioning from New Historicism are used to frame the analyses of the plays. The discussion reveals that those who were in power, namely the rulers and aristocrats of the periods evident in the plays, were guilty of various follies and flaws. The constructs of the Carnival also illustrate how historical truths can be questionable and identities can be refashioned by disregarding boundaries, structures, and hierarchies.


Bakhtin, carnival, Kee Thuan Chye, new historicism, resistance, revisioning

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)