Just playing? using Bakhtin’s theories of ‘super genres’ and ‘carnival’ to explore pre-adolescent children’s shared knowledge of popular culture
Simmons, CA 2011, 'Just playing? using Bakhtin’s theories of ‘super genres’ and ‘carnival’ to explore pre-adolescent children’s shared knowledge of popular culture' in B Offord & R Garbutt (eds), Proceedings of A scholarly affair: the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia 2010 National Conference, Byron Bay, NSW, 7-9 December, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW, pp. 135-144. ISBN: 9780980498073
This paper reports on findings from a study which investigated preadolescent children’s collective use of their knowledge of popular culture when they were in engaged in improvised drama in the School setting. It considers the idea of a ‘shared popular culture prop box’ to explain how children draw on and collate their creative ideas from ‘props’, such as plots from The Simpsons, to confirm their subculture. Bakhtin’s theories on language and carnival are used to explain this finding. The paper shows that for children, stories and texts learnt from films and television, work in a similar way to Bakhtin’s idea of ‘supergenres’. The shared pop cultural knowledge in the prop box are like super-genres - part of children’s shared consciousness and are drawn on collectively when they are being creative. Bakhtin’s carnival theory is used to explain how children use their shared knowledge of popular culture in devising drama sketches to perpetuate their own subversive subculture, through the use of carnival-like humour and their knowledge of popular culture. The paper reveals how, through drawing on existing knowledge (super genres) to create a carnivalesque culture, children gain moments of power in the classroom over those who hold the most power in their lives - adults. This research demonstrates how the notion of a shared pop culture prop box enables subversive ways for sub cultural groups to empower themselves within the dominant culture.