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Ethnic otherness and grotesque in the plays of Marin Držić


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Đikić, Mia. (2018). Ethnic otherness and grotesque in the plays of Marin Držić. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Croatian Language and Literature.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij kroatistike) [mentor Rafolt, Leo].

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The analysis of the grotesque in the dramatic works of Marin Držić rests upon the understanding of two relationships: Self – Other and nazbilj – nahvao. It is the questioning of these very terms that introduces grotesque elements, motifs, descriptions, characters and situations into the analysed dramas. In the first case this is achieved by creating a humorous effect of that phenomenon, and in the second by creating a terrifying i.e. gruesome effect. The grotesque is indivisibly tied to the parodic, ironic and farcical in the first relationship, whilst the terrifying effect of the grotesque leads to social satire in the second. The introductory part of the doctoral thesis, which consists of four subheadings, proposes the main hypotheses, provides the prolegomenon for the interpretation of the grotesque and the farcical, as well as for the closely related terms ironic, parodic and satiric and establishes relationships crucial for the analysis: text and context, i.e. dramatic and non-dramatic identity, Self and Other (with an emphasis on ethnic Other) and nazbilj and nahvao. The prolegomenon for the interpretation of the grotesque and the farcical is an overview of previous studies of the phenomenon of the grotesque: from the very name of the phenomenon, through the questioning of its meaning, up to the distinction between the grotesque as a literary genre and the grotesque as an aesthetic phenomenon which can be included in another literary genre, to its function in other genres along with its connection to the comic, ironic, parodic and satiric. It starts from the first attempts to interpret that term (Michael de Montaigne, Hugo), through Kayser's three aesthetic categories and four complementary definitions of the grotesque, and is followed by a critique of his overly terrifying view on the effects of the grotesque, i.e. the neglect of its comical aspect (Heselhaus, Grimm, Jennings). Kayser's „cosmic pessimistic“ view of the world is completely opposed to Bahtin's „cosmic optimistic“ theory, which defines grotesque creation as realistic, with roots in the national culture of laughter, folklore genres, colloquial street language and street performing forms. The main characteristic of grotesque realism is the decrease from a highly spiritual, ideal and abstract aspect to a material-physical one, i.e. a decline that undermines all authority (moral, socio-political, religious). Bahtin perceives the duality of the phenomenon of the grotesque through the differentiation of the romantic grotesque from the medieval and renaissance ones (the latter one maintaining a comic aspect). This he uses as a basis for the analysis of serio-comic genres and the related carnivalesque i.e. ritual laughter. In the introductory part Bahtin's theory is followed by an array of theoretical explanations of the grotesque (Sachs, Steig, Pietzcker, Thomson, Ternes, Stallybrass, White, Novaković, Gašparović, Levanat Peričić, Detoni Dujmić, Tadić Šokac), the farcical (Dollimore, Pavličić, Rafolt), as well as the grotesque, farcical, parodic and ironic in Držić's works (Košuta, Slamnig, Fališevac, Novak, Rafolt, Tatarin, Dukić, Grmača). Debating the very term of identity precedes the construction and questioning of one of the two key relationships – namely the relationship between Self and ethnic Other, as the dominant otherness in Držić's dramatic works. By analysing identity, i.e. by placing Self into a certain context, all contemporary literary theories question its relationship to Other. Starting from the relationship between text and context, real and dramatic identity in the light of new historicism (Greenblatt, Montrose, Mullaney, Tennenhouse) and partly even cultural materialism (Dollimore, Sinfield), both the introductory part and the analysis discuss common points and overlaps between dramatic and non-dramatic identity along with the real possibility of detaching from collective (stereotypical) identity, which is connected to the possibility of going past the confines of the analysed genre – pastoral drama and comedy. The relationship between Self and ethnic Other itself is established according to the set criteria, i.e. components that constitute the monstrosity in discourse (Levanat Peričić), these being body, language, diet and habitat. Based on these criteria, degrees of otherness (closer and more distant) are established, in other words, degrees of detachment from the dominant Dubrovnik culture as a context. A humorous effect of the grotesque, connected with ethnic otherness, brings ethnic humour into focus. A community, i.e. context, that binds the author to the audience, is a prerequisite for the existence of ethnic humour. The aforesaid context also creates cultural stereotypes upon which ethnic humour rests, which in Držić's dramas result not only in laughter and comedy, but also create a comical effect of the grotesque, crucial for this subject. There are several underlying hypotheses proposed in the introductory part of the thesis: - ethnic otherness is the dominant otherness in Držić's dramatic works; - the representation of ethnic otherness, intertwined with the cultural stereotypes of the author and his audience, links dramatic and non-dramatic reality very clearly and closely; - there are several degrees of otherness in Držić's dramatic works that arise from the differences between Self and Other in terms of body, language, diet and origin or habitat; - the grotesque in Držić's dramas is indivisibly tied to the farcical, ironic, parodic or satiric; - the Bakhtinian-carnivalesque effect of the grotesque is directly linked to the study of the relationship between Self and ethnic otherness; - the bigger the difference between Self and Other in relation to the set criteria is, the more the effect of the grotesque shifts from a humorous and comical aspect to a socially unacceptable one; - the bitter-serious or terrifying effect of the grotesque is not associated with Other, but rather with nahvao, a term that assumes a meaning much broader than the ethnic, social, class or gender related; - the grotesque is, in Držić's work, always related to the questioning of sin in the light of Christian tradition; - even though there is an obvious transfer of cultural stereotypes from one dramatic work to another, the effects of the grotesque can vary, depending on genre, setting, idea, coexistence of multiple Others in the work. The central part of the doctoral thesis is composed of the corpus analysis, divided into two parts according to genre, namely pastorals (Venere i Adon, Tirena, Grižula) and comedies (Dundo Maroje, Skup, Arkulin, Tripče de Utolče). Both genres question the Self – Other and nazbilj – nahvao relationships simultaneously, even though the relationships are established in a different manner. Speaking of Self and Other, the reasons are rather obvious: the dimension of mythicalallegorical-fantasy creatures, i.e. characters in pastorals that are at odds with only one ethnic Other – the Vlachs; the clear separation of worlds in the pastoral based on the distinction between high and low; various forms of closer and more distant otherness in comedy that can „shift“ according to setting, presence of more otherness in the piece, and the theme itself, to state just a few. The analysis shows that in Držić’s comedies the four given criteria of differentiation (body, language, diet and habitat), upon which the relationship between Self – Other is built, are preceded by the differentiation based on other (non-Christian) religious affiliation (the Jew, the Turk). Although the methods of constructing Other differ in the two genres, the works within the genres themselves raise the same questions, i.e. they are built upon the same idea. This is supported by the fact that the author consciously goes beyond literary and theatrical conventions in both genres, questioning them explicitly within his works and, in doing so, links text to context, dramatic to non-dramatic and finally questions social conventions and the existence of set identities in them. The corpus analysis confirms the hypotheses proposed in the introductory part, starting with the one that claims that ethnic other is the dominant other in Držić's dramatic work. Despite there being various established Self – Other relationships in Držić’s work (e.g. gender-based or class-based), it is quite certain that the majority of relationships is based on the criteria of community affiliation, the community being different from the one that Self belongs to. On the ground of the set criteria, Other distances itself from Self through subtle or less subtle differences and thereby creates the following several degrees: Vlach otherness, closely related to the relation between high and low, urban and rural; minimally dislocated otherness such as the natives of Kotor or Lopud (sometimes našijenac – one of our own); a bit more distant otherness e.g. the German Ugo (a foreigner) and completely distant otherness, for example the Jew and the Turk. The humorous dimension of the grotesque that prevails in Držić's works is in complete harmony with the renaissance context in which they are written and is mainly connected to the semantics of the farce genre. However, its terrifying effect in the relationship nazbilj – nahvao is also evident (the analysis first and foremost confirms that the relationship Self – Other is not tantamount to the relationship nazbilj – nahvao, in addition to the fact that the differences between nazbilj and nahvao are not conditioned by ethnicity, gender or class). The first relationship shows a dominant Bakhtinian-carnivalesque, Rabelaisian effect, closely related to the farcical, parodic and ironic (the material-physical obsession of the Vlach otherness with alcoholism, food, defecation or the sexual; hernia as a grotesque excess of the Kotor natives and many more). Nevertheless, the bigger the difference between Self and Other in relation to the set criteria is, the more the effect of the grotesque shifts from a humorous and comical aspect to a socially unacceptable one (from the Vlach otherness displaying a farcical obsession with eating and drinking to the Turk's socially unacceptable homosexuality and aggressiveness or the Jew's exploitation). The third and fourth introductory statements pertain to the connection of the terrifying effect of the grotesque to nahvao, and that of nahvao to sin in the light of Christian tradition (one way or another, every sin is connected to grotesque excess) with a focus on immoderation (greed and stinginess) and arrogance connected with it. That idea is explicitly introduced in the prologue of Dugi Nos (Long Nose) and reaffirmed in each and every one of the analysed comedies. Immoderation, in the prologue described as the most appalling of sins that leads a number of Držić's characters into moral decadence (principally title characters – Skup, Maroje and Arkulin), is the motivator of grotesque occurrences and situations that result in terrifying grotesque forms closely connected to nahvao. There are several grotesque elements in the necromancer's prologue: intertwining human and animal (in appearance, behaviour and language); grotesque isolation of body parts, grotesque relation between the big and the small, with the animal dominating the human (the human existence); intertwining mechanical and organic, i.e. mechanical and human; turning dead into living (for instance giving life to dolls – čovuljice, that arise from animal faeces and human waste being returned to the ground, with allusions to darkness and fertility. The fight between nahvao and nazbilj people, as well as the intercourse between women and čovuljica (nahvao people), which endanger the human existence, lead to outright grotesque depictions. The nazbilj – nahvao relationship is connected to three phases of the human development: feritas – humanitas – divinitas, i.e. animal – human – divine. However, the order of these three levels is oftentimes stereotypical or rests upon a social hierarchy, which is mostly artificial. Quite to the contrary, the characters in the analysed works upset the existing picture of a world of simple relationships such as high – low. The nazbilj – nahvao relationship, to a lesser or greater extent present in all of the analysed works, albeit clearer and more accentuated in the second part of the corpus, namely the comedies, connects Držić's works to Bakhtin's serio-comic genres (due to the very connection of that relationship to the grotesque and satiric). Along with the fundamental characteristics of serio-comic genres (a new relationship to (current) reality; critical stance stemming from the author's experience; the presence of a series of tones and styles – renouncing unity in style, intertwining elevated and grounded, serious and comic, parodically composed extracts, an abundance of dialects and vernaculars etc.), Držić also uses various moral-psychological experiments, researched by Bakhtin: dissociating personalities (a motionless Arkulin watching himself – Arkulin, the necromancer, at the wedding with Ančica); different forms of madness or passions bordering on madness (for instance Skup's obsession with tezoro); scandalous scenes (Maroje and Maro's sudden encounters in Rome); a change in life circumstances and fates (Maro and Pomet); the very changes in identity (the loss of identity, deliberately deceptive representation of identity (Maro and Maroje), identity theft, double identity, a switch in gender roles by changing from women's clothes into men's and vice versa (Pera, Tripče, Mande), switching class roles by changing clothes. Furthermore, the upside down carnivalesque world of serio-comic genres is characterised by mismatched couples (e.g. Maroja and Bokčilo, Pomet and Ugo), carnivalesque blasphemy, obscenity and humiliation, followed by quarrels, bloodless wars (the noble („uzmnožni“) and the feeble („ubogi“) shepherds in Tirena), the use of kitchen utensils as weapons (Pasimaha and Drijemalo in Skup) etc. By resting upon both the humorous and serious, and by use of the two effects of the grotesque, Držić creates ambivalent laughter, which logically connects comedy to the grotesque, farcical, ironic, parodic and last but not least satiric. The first part of the corpus, namely the pastoral one, analyses the grotesque in connection to Vlach otherness. The scenes in the analysed works in which only Vlachs appear, are entirely farcical, filled with Rabelaisian-carnivalesque motifs of grotesque realism – eating, defecation, a focus on the material, physical and sexual. The first of the analysed works, Venere and Adon, is the most simple in terms of composition, with a clear division of two worlds. This is firstly achieved by using two separate levels in the title (pripovijes (the story) and comedy), then with a separation of space (scene and proscenium) and lastly with a clear differentiation of the Vlach and mythical-allegorical-fantasy world based on all four given criteria. Exaggeration in setting up the initial differences between two worlds results in an array of grotesque elements, motifs, characters and situations (an ugly grotesque body equated with an animal body, shrunken/enlarged body parts; a carnivalesque belly as a motivator; a Rabelaisian cycle of consuming and defecating; a vulgar and harsh language with plenty of swearwords, curses, insults, utterances used to address animals; intertwining sacral and profane; grotesque carnivalesque blasphemy etc.). However, it is precisely the Vlach otherness that becomes the moral judge of the dominant Dubrovnik culture during the drama. This way, the elements of the grotesque are connected not only to the farcical world of the Vlachs, but to social satire as well. In the Vlach world in Tirena one can recognise the same motifs and characters, a grotesquefarcical world set in motion by eating, defecating, the material and the physical. However, in Tirena, the set identities, namely the community's identity (divided otherness) and the individual's identity (abrupt changes in behaviour and beliefs), are once more questioned on several levels. In both the Vlach and the divine world there is questioning of identity, which leads to the fact that, contrary to their stereotypical behaviour, the Vlachs become moralizing figures, whilst Kupido, despite being a deity, creates chaos out of boredom and revenge against the Vlachs. The more the Vlach culture is being diminished by the grotesque and the farcical, the more does the later transformation of the Vlachs into moralizing figures or figures ruled by better and more honest relationships lead to social satire. Something similar happens in Grižula. Alongside the mythical-fantasy and Vlach world, there appears to be a third world, that of Grižula and Omakala, two fugitives from Grad (the Town). In those three worlds, just like in Venera and Adon and Tirena, the animal, the human and the divine are being questioned. Though it is a matter of stereotypically mocked Vlachs, the love between the two Vlach characters (Radoje and Miona) is the most genuine, the one between Grižula and Omakala is completely determined by the material and sexually-physical, while love in the divine world is defined by power and the fight for dominance. Grižula himself is a character of great importance – a deceitful nobleman from Grad, who on three occasions presents himself as a completely different person, which can be plainly seen in the three names (Grižula, Omako, Remeta) he uses with three different women (Gruba, Omakala, Vila) with whom he wants to have intercourse. The second part of the analysed corpus consists of four comedies, which, alongside the relationship Self – Other, quite explicitly examine the nazbilj – nahvao relationship, explained in the prologue of Dugi Nos. Seemingly detached from the rest of the comedy, this prologue, in an utterly terrifying and gruesomely grotesque context, discusses the nazbilj people in their fight for power against the nahvao people, the artificial, magically created čovuljica, homunculi, against moral degradation, disgusting couplings of human and animal, mechanical and organic, objects brought to life though necromancy and spiritism. As previously mentioned, there is an array of grotesque descriptions, elements, motifs and situations in the necromancer's tale about the genesis and existence of the nahvao people, twisted values and life gone awry, as he witnessed in Velike, Male and Nove (the Big, the Little and the New Indies) and was told about in Stare Indije (the Old Indies). In the comedy itself, similarly to the prologue, there is a sequence of paradoxical, grotesque and farcical events. The Indies, as a magical and exotic place, ruled by various social paradoxes, are being replaced by Rome, the centre of Catholicism, containing an acrostic in its name which reads that immodesty is the source of all evil. Immodesty is the motif that will directly bind the prologue of Dugi Nos not only to the rest of the comedy, but also to Skup and Arkulin, which in the forefront have trading of what is human, substituting the living with the dead – substituting life with money. In Rome, a whole series of characters appears, obsessed with avarice, arrogance, wrath and aggressiveness, seeking plenary indulgence. However, instead of meeting in front of St. Peter's church, they meet at an utterly farcical place – beneath the balcony of the Roman courtesan Laura, where Maroje hopes to find his lost money and while doing so, equates money with life and consciously gives up his son; Dživulin the Lopud native confronts Maroje, who did not pay for his ship ticket; Maro and Laura bargain away their relationship etc. The very social order in Dundo Maroje is characterised by the grotesque farcical relationship between up and down, related to Laura's balcony and the house, where she, in return for money, receives her guests (a symbolic change of Maro and Pomet's status). Tripčeta the Kotor native, one of Držić's Kotor natives, has a slightly different role than the rest of the stereotypical Kotor natives in Dundo Maroje (acting as the našijenac and „meštar od skula“ – a learned man). Nevertheless, the fact that he utters his ideas so resoundingly, with Maroje's support and in contrast to Pomet, gives him a crucial role in the comedy in its entirety. One can probably tie the most grotesque-farcical stereotypes to the Kotor natives (hernia as a grotesque excess, which in the case of Tripče de Utolče leads to impotence; pears covered in urine; prostitution or easy virtue of the women in Kotor, connected to the farcical, grotesque and parodic male characters named after St. Tryphon etc.). The stereotypical representation of the Kotor natives reaches its peak in the comedy Tripče de Utolče, where the title character is given a name coined in a grotesque and farcical manner, by blasphemously combining the name of a saint with Tripče's sinful life. The plot of the comedy Tripče de Utolče is, in its entirety, farcical. At the beginning of the comedy several admirers of Mande appear, who in some way or other threaten Tripče as her lawful husband. Quite symbolic, all the men, who by all means want to make sexual advances at Mande, are of different entities, occupations and social status. Stereotypically, the most dangerous one would have to be the Turk, who is quite aggressively under attack from Mande's relatives, which only stops when he finds out that he is Mande's long-lost brother Frančesko (with a symbolic name, just like Tripče, Mande and Laura). Two other characters, Anisula and Kata, who trade in human bodies, make one question the foundations of marriage and family (incest – brother/sister and father/daughter). The comedy itself comes to an unexpected end – due to his drunkenness, Tripče gets socially punished by being distrusted by the community, while Mande, though cheating on Tripče, is proclaimed a saint. As previously mentioned, there is grotesque human trade in Skup and Arkulin as well (Skup sells his own daughter, while Ančica is being sold to old Arkulin by her brother and fiancé). Taken by the manic madness over his tezoro, Skup goes into a farcical-grotesque state of body and soul (madness, distrust, fear, terror, dreariness, petrification). Because of his stinginess, i.e. his desire to keep (pile) the money to himself, Arkulin also gets into that state of mind and gets punished by the Necromancer, helped by the Lopud and Kotor native. He loses both the material and the existential – his house, the help and Ančica. However, the Necromancer himself, as someone who possesses „superhuman“ abilities, like those in the prologue of Dugi Nos and Kupido, tangles the plot for utterly wrong reasons (his revenge on Arkulin) and after the temporary theft of Arkulin's identity (with the permission of the authorities – the judge at the wedding) sexually assaults Ančica in a grotesque-farcical context. There is no doubt that, just like Maroje, Skup and Arkulin are Držić's nahvao people, whose main motivator is avarice. Greed, immodesty and stinginess compromise their every relationship, but first and foremost with the ones closest to them (Maro, Andrijana, Ančica), as well as their own lives (Skup's fear of being „slaughtered“ because of his tezoro, Arkulin's motionlessness and the loss of both the material and existential etc.). In having different relationships towards various kinds of ethnic otherness, established in the three comedies that have them as title characters, those three characters completely unmask themselves (with grotesque stinginess and immodesty as the main motivators). It is in that sense that ethnical humour and the stereotypes related to it result in laughter and comedy, but their primary function is to point to the differences between nazbilj and nahvao. The relationships of the three Dubrovnik gentlemen towards the people closest to them, but also to every other kind of established otherness, especially ethnic otherness, are therefore instances of unveiling their relationships (the relationship of the master towards his Vlach servants, based on the relationship high – low, with a focus on manic stinginess, immodesty and pride of the old men of Dubrovnik; the aggressive behaviour of Dživulin the Lopud native, amongst other things, connected to Marojes escape from the ship before paying for the ticket; Maroje's takeover of Sadi's goods, „obtained” through Jewish trade and/or exploitation etc.). In relation to ethnic otherness in all these comedies, grotesque relationships and sudden exchanges of living and dead, fertile and infertile, mechanical and organic, sacred and sinful, sacral and profane, productive and unproductive are being established, with the connection between the existential and the material in the focus (the relation of Skup towards Variva and Andrijana; putting tezoro in the grave; the fruitfulness of the money made from exploitation in contrast to the petrification of Skup's living body; Maroje's renunciation of life and his son for ducats; buying Ančica; the end of Maro and Laura's „love“; the sudden luck in love for Laura and Ugo, Maro and Pera, Arkulin and Ančica). The connection between the existential and the physical-material, that causes a series of grotesque motifs, situations, relationships and characters, in one or the other effect of the grotesque, creates nahvao. Nahvao results from the analysis of the works, it is not connected to the ethnic, gender or class aspect, so avarice spreads on other, seemingly supporting characters, such as Munuo in Skup and Kate in Tripčet de Utolče. On the other hand, different characters in the work discuss it – the necromancer Dugi Nos and Tripče in Dundo Maroje or Dživo in Skup, first alone and then talking to uncle Niko. Based on the corpus analysis of the pastorals and comedies, the conclusion indicates that, regardless of social power, class, gender or ethnicity of even those who, one way or another (by means of status or magic abilities), draw near to the „superhuman“, Držić's characters are chiefly motivated by grounded, low and personal goals. As a consequence, though stereotypically being part of different Self – Other communities, they act individually, led by their own wishes – greed, lust, stinginess, arrogance etc. The characters' behaviour (regardless of all stereotypical parameters that distinguish them within the relationships Self – Other, high – low, male – female) is the only manifestation of nazbilj and nahvao, which can be found in every character. Humorously grotesque and farcical motifs connected to ethnic otherness (focus on the Vlach's eating and defecation, the Kotor natives' grotesque hernia, the Lopud natives' combativeness, the Turk's bestial aggressiveness), in times of encounter with Self in the drama, reveal a changed stereotypical picture of the world. The stereotypically lowest-ranking in those relationships experiences a change that shows Self in its true colours. By utterly degrading Other, with Self being at the opposite extreme (Maroje – Bokčilo; Arkulin – the Vlach Kučivrat; Skup – Variva), the grotesque and farcical in the analysed comedies assume their behavioural patterns (Maroje – the Jew; the relatives – the Turk) support or admire them, in a manner of speaking (Maroje – the Kotor native) and, consequently, reveal Self. It is in that sense, that the humorous effect of the grotesque, connected to Other, displays the author's two perfectly clear intentions: to make people laugh by using ethnic humour (stereotypes known to the audience) and to reveal Self in relation to Other (to degrade it). The terrifying i.e. gruesome effect of the grotesque enhances the audience's understanding in the dramatic (and non-dramatic) world of the existing nazbilj-nahvao relationships, which are, unlike other relationships, dependant solely on the animal, the human and the divine in an individual.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Držić, grotesque, Self – Other, nazbilj – nahvao, humorous – terrifying, cultural stereotypes, ethnic humour, comedy, pastoral, new historicism
Subjects: Slavic languages and literatures > Croatian language and literature
Departments: Department of Croatian Language and Literature
Supervisor: Rafolt, Leo
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij kroatistike
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2018 09:50
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2019 08:46

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