Festivity has long been a central concern of literary critics wishing to track the formal, social, and cultural relation of literature and play. In accounts from Bakhtin onwards, carnival excess fosters renewal of the social realm. Yet the “festive vision” of restoration and rebirth offered by a Bakhtinian critique fails to account for the divergent nature of party literature in the period after World War I. During the interwar period, satirical novels from both sides of the Atlantic represented the decay of modern sociability. When play is transformed into work, a carnival vision becomes untenable; the party is no longer a source of social, emotional, or sacral renewal, but instead the site of what Sianne Ngai has theorized as ugly feelings. In representative novels by Anthony Powell and Carl Van Vechten, disgust and boredom, rather than pleasure and interest, dominate the festive landscape.


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pp. 71-85
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