Probient Festive Misrule on Del Playa Drive or Halloween in Isla Vista: An abbreviated version

Leoda Valenzuela


This essay examines the celebration of Halloween in the college town of Isla Vista, California through the lense of carnivalesque and English medieval drama. In Bakhtin’s Rabelais and his World, the author examines the main components of the carnivalesque, “briefly liberating events and rituals,” in conjunction with Chris Humphrey’s book The Politics of Carnival: Festive Misrule in Medieval England. With contemporary examples of Isla Vista Halloween in Adrienne Marie MacIain’s dissertation on the topics of “performance, youth culture, and the United States’ carnivalesque,” Valenzuela identifies the college town’s celebrations as “probient festive misrule” through their explorations with the key components of the carnivalesque –festive laughter, speech in the marketplace, and grotesque realism. The probients, youths in Isla Vista facing an exploratory period between adolescence and adulthood, expose their community’s dominant values through these celebrations. The carnivalesque behaviors during Isla Vista Halloween reveal conformist, skewed ideals in areas such as race, class, gender, and sexual preference. The author argues that the identification of these distorted values within this essay presents an opportunity to reject the destructive reinforcement of these behaviors within Isla Vista and move towards productive societal change.

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