As a nonsense, also a nonsense poetry or nonsense poetry, is a literary genre, which can be present in both prose and verse. Nonsense poetry is illogical, breaks with norms of language, uses empty comparisons and paradoxical statements. However, nonsense is not meaningless, since texts of this kind still follow systematic rules. A typical form is the shaking rhymes, whereby numerous children’s rhymes are characterized by the described features.
The term goes back to the Book of Nonsense (1846) by Edward Lears. Lears, a British writer and painter, collected in this work 73 Limericks, which are distinguished above all by the lack of meaning or point. Nonsense can be translated with nonsense or nonsense. Let’s look at an example.
It was dark, the moon was bright,
snow covered the green corridor,
as a carriage lightning fast,
slowly drove around the corner.
The above example is the first stanza of a poem from the Saxon folk-mouth, it is unclear who wrote it. The work is composed of a sequence of oxymoras, ie contradictory word sequences, in cross-rhymes. It is noticeable that it is content mischief and thus nonsense.
This kind of nonsense poetry is illogical, but it is not meaningless. After all, it is based on linguistic rules and maintains the reader through the nonsensical connections in the individual lines of verse. Let’s look at another example of Edward Lear: a limerick in English.
A nonsense limerick by English writer Edward Lear.
There was once an old man with a beard who said, “It is as I feared it-two owls, a hen, four larks, and a Zaunkönig have built a nest in my beard. The text is not characterized by a deeper meaning, but merely by the play with language, in order to amaze the recipient (reader, listener). Let us look at another example.
Previous glove I lost in my fall
there I went to find three days before I sought him
This example is taken from a work by Johann Lewalter. Here, the important words of the sentence are interchanged and thus both cause and effect. This section is also a language game and serves exclusively for the entertainment due to the illogical connection. It is therefore nonsense.
Characteristics of the nonsense seal
Overview: The main features of the nonsense seal
All texts, which can be identified as nonsense, partly violate rules of language, logical facts, appear absurd, play with paradoxes or are merely language games. Nonsens is supposed to entertain, to achieve a surprising effect, or to serve as a linguistic relaxation exercise as well as a childish counting-up rhyme.
Nonsense literature often eludes a rational interpretation and can hardly be grasped. Consequently, it can be quite meaningful to analyze such a work, but an interpretation is in most cases not useful or purposeful.
Characteristic are the letters of the alphabet and the exchange of whole words, the breaking with common rules of grammar and spelling (cautery), the formation of neologisms and occasionalisms (word creations), or infinite verses ending with the same line which is also used at the beginning (Ex: A pug went into the kitchen).
Typical stylistic devices and forms: onomatopoeia (lute painting), shaking rhymes, limericks, palindromes, hinged rhythms, childish songs, language games, counting rhymes, lying histories, neologisms, occasionalisms, fictional nouns, paradoxes, unknown metaphors.
Origins, works, representatives of nonsense
In many works, passages can be identified, which can be attributed to the nonsense, which can be proved even in the Middle Ages or in the speeches of the Shakespearean fools. As an independent genre, however, the nonsense can be seen only from the 19th century onwards.
In Germany the first representatives are Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914) or Joachim Ringelnatz (1883-1934). Previously, the nonsense is particularly popular and popular in England, as evidenced by the above example by Edward Lears.
Lears not only gave the genre its own name, but also made a significant contribution to establishing the Limerick internationally. Although he did not invent the Limerick himself in his Book of Nonsense, he was able to help the literary scene through the popularity of the work.
In addition to Lears, Lewis Carroll (1832 – 1898) must also be named as a major representative of the genre. His most famous work Alice in Wonderland is almost a juxtaposition of nonsensical elements. After all, cards come to life here, crazy hackers are doing their misery, and a cat strutting around, which can turn into a single grin.
In Germany, Heinz Erhard, James Krüss, Peter Hacks, Robert Gernhardt, Ernst Jandl and Michael Ende, who have shaped Nonsens in the twentieth century and brought to life in many texts for young and old. If we try to associate the nonsense of a particular literary epoch, we soon land in Futurism, Dadaism, or Surrealism (→ Literaturepochen).
Short overview: The most important overview
The generic name goes back to the Book of Nonsense by Edwards Lears. This contains joking, nonsensical limericks and is characteristic of the later genre.
Nonsense literature, also nonsense poetry, is a genre that can hardly be interpreted. It breaks with common rules, violated proven things, and norms of language, provides partly empty comparisons and is largely absurd and a play with the language.
Nevertheless, the genre is not meaningless and can not be dismissed as simple stupidity or wit. For Nonsens is not only funny or satirical, but still follows certain rules or sequences. The concept of nonsense art is quite useful.