Cultural Pastiches: Intertextualities in the Moncrabeau Liars' Festival Narratives

Essay Excerpt

Pastiche necessarily involves a turn toward the past, in a borrowing of earlier forms, which, however, are decontextualized, and thus can be only seen in the present. In the case at hand, this involves drawing upon an older folkloric genre such as the tall tale, upon the idea of the village fete in a nostalgia for things lost, and upon "History." The focus upon the tall tale evokes a past in which orality and story telling were central features of rural life. The velvet costumes of the Moncrabeau Liars' Club jurors, vaguely Renaissance in style, contrast with the styrofoam hats sold as souvenirs to the audience. The hats evoke music-hall and cabaret entertainers of the 1930s. The use of historical names such as those of Joan of Arc, Charles VII, and the Hapsbourgs serves to focus the audience's attention upon the knowledge of the narrator, although this knowledge usually subverts conventional images. Finally, central to pastiche is an intertextuality of expressive forms, which refers to other texts and to previous versions, such that the latter become a constitutive and essential part of their structure (Jameson 1984:67; Jencks 1987:338-340). Multiple encodings of postmodern texts result in certain ambiguities (Jencks 1987:340). In the case of the Moncrabeau narratives, ambiguities are grounded in verbal puns, whose emphasis on the sexual and the scatological situates the listeners in the Bakhtinian laughter of the carnival but at the same time encodes messages of gender and racial domination.

The following discussion will provide a reading of four narratives from the 1984 and 1987 festivals, where a total of thirty stories were told. One of the narratives won its teller the title of king in 1987; the other three were ranked highly by both the judges and by the audience. The success of the narratives is due to their postmodern character, which will now be explicated.  (Mark, 195-196)

About the Author

Vera Mark is an Assistant Professor of French and Linguistics at Penn State. She teaches in the Center for Language Sciences. Her main research interests are as follows: French regional languages, language, culture and history, language revival and language death, and language and subjectivity. 

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