The nature and sources of the nonsense of Edward Lear
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The purpose pf the thesis is to examine the distinctive nature of what Lear referred to as his “nonsense”, that is the whole of his writings for children, with particular reference to the longer verses, which I shall refer to as nonsense songs, to see what it is that makes this nonsense a particular form of literature, of language-use.
After an introduction outlining aims and structure, there are three main sections, subdivided. The first considers the sources of the nonsense, under the heading Romantic lyric, and then Nursery rhymes and word-games (the firs is considered a broadly opposing influence to the second two, tending to expression of feeling and atmosphere as opposed to sheer diversity of invention), and a final section, before a conclusion, dealing with Lear’s place in children’s poetry, and the importance of contemporary beliefs with regard to this for his work.
The second part deals with critical approaches, first with the inadequate early habit of regarding his verse as poetic and sonorous but empty of content, then with the two main methods in this century, the first of which considers the nonsense as personally expressive, the second concentrating on its structure as a particular game with language.
Finally, to demonstrate the approach take to the nonsense, there is a section of brief analyses of particular poems, and two prose pieces, chosen to illustrate different aspects of the nonsense, and because they have not been extensively treated in the body of the text.