Cultural, Linguistic and Literary Approaches to Narratives of Femininity
Carnivalesque Masquerade. Lisbeth Salander and Her Trickster Agency
← 92 | 93 → Tiina Mäntymäki
This article draws on Bakhtin’s carnivalesque to discuss Lisbeth Salander, the female protagonist of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, as an archetypal trickster and violator of social and cultural boundaries. Defined in terms of deviance and marginalisation, tricksters typically emerge as critics of established social norms and draw attention to the workings of repressive ideologies and social practices. Through her grotesque masquerade, Salander questions institutional violence and moves from the margins towards recognition as a citizen.
Trickster figures are universal. They have appeared in all cultures at all times in folktales, mythology, religious narratives and literature as polymorphous teasers whose function is to question and highlight cultural values, practices, norms and taboos. Although representing a relative permanence as archetypal characters, tricksters are culturally constructed and therefore liable to historical and social change. All times and cultures have had their tricksters who tell stories of the others: those of the culture who are marginalised, hidden and deviant. They are characterised by the ambiguity in their role as trespassers and violators of social boundaries. Lori Landay (1998: 2) describes tricksters as expressions of liminality, subversion, duality and irony, as constantly moving, boundary-breaking teasers who reveal and question social values and practices in order to ‘expose hypocrisy and inequality, to subvert existing social systems’. Thus, tricksters challenge social order by introducing destabilisation and imbalance (Bassil-Morozow, 2002: 6). In folk mythology, they may be good or evil, amalgamations of animals and human...
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