Nonsense and humour are two cognitive and linguistic phenomena that frequently overlap. The focus of this article falls on chosen instances of humorous nonsense poetry, targeted at English-speaking children, which contains verbal and visual modes of expression. Formal sources of nonsense-creation in natural language can be several, among others semantic anomaly, syntactic ill-formedness and structural ambiguity, phonetic and graphological experimentation. The interplay of nonsense with the visuality of the text in children’s poetry assumes three distinct forms: 1) visual poems, 2) multimodal texts,, where illustrations, often nonensical and funny in themselves, support the verbal text, and 3) texts based on the phonetic play. Examples will be drawn from the classics of the Anglophone children’s poetry: Mother Goose, the Victorian classics L. Carroll and E. Lear, 20th-c. British and American poets – L. Hughes, e.e. cummings, T. Hughes, J. Agard, as well as the Polish-British pair W. Graniczewski and R. Shindler. In all the poems to be analyzed multimodality has an important role to play in the creation and strengthening of the effect of humorous bisociation/incongruity. A tight intertwining of the phonetic, semantic and visual layers in such texts becomes an additional challenge for their translators. The theoretical keystone for our considerations remains H. Bergson’s study Laughter (1900/2008), which deftly combines the Superiority, the Incongruity and the Release Theory of Modern Humour Studies. Bergson rightly links the sources and effects of the nonsensical and the comic to the notion of game/play and to the idea of dream-like illusion they create.
Carroll, L. (1865, 1871/1981). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass. With an Introduction by M. N. Cohen. Text illustrations by J. Tenniel. Toronto, New York, London, Sydney, Auckland: Bantam Books.
Carroll, L. (1972). Przygody Alicji w Krainie Czarów./ O tym, co Alicja odkryła po drugiej stronie Lustra. Transl. M. Słomczyński. Illustrations by J. Tenniel according to the first English edition. Warszawa: Czytelnik.
Carroll, L. (2001/2005). The Complete Stories and Poems of Lewis Carroll. New Lanark, ML Scotland: Geddes & Grosset.
Carroll, L. (2012). Alicja w Krainie Czarów. Transl. and afterword by E. Tabakowska. Illustrations by T. Jansson. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Bona.
Graniczewski, W. & Shindler, R. (2005). Time for a Rhyme. The Limerics of T.J. Tonguetwister. Illustrations by A. Zaręba. Kraków: Astra/Bell Kraków.
Hughes, T. (2005/2008). Collected Poems for Children. Illustrated by R. Briggs. London: Faber and Faber.
Lear, E. (1846, 1871, 1872/1994). Complete Nonsense. Illustrated by the author. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions.
Lear, E. (1953). Teapots and Quails and Other New Nonsenses. Edited by A. Davidson & P. Hofer. London: John Murray Publishers.
Miłosz, Cz. (2001). Haiku. With illustrations by A. Dudziński. Kraków: Księgarnia Haiku.
Rackham, A. (ed.) (1994). Mother Goose. Old Nursery Rymes. Compiled and illustrated by A. Rackham. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions.
Shindler, R. & Graniczewski, W. (2005). Found Alphabet. Illustrations by A. Andrzejewska & A. Pilchowski-Ragno. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Stein, G. (1993). A Stein Reader. Edited and with an introduction by U. E. Dydo. Evanston, ILL: Northwestern University Press.
Sweeney, M. (ed.). (2001). The New Faber Book of Children’s Poems. Illustrations by S. Fanelli. London: Faber and Faber.
Thomas, D. (2000). Collected Poems 1934-53. London: Phoenix.
Attardo, S. (ed.). (2017). The Routledge Handbook of Language and Humor. New York & London: Routledge.
de Beaugrande, R.-A. & Dressler, U. W. (1990). Introduction to Text Linguistics. London: Longman
Bergson, H. (1900/2008). Laughter. An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic. Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor.
Berlyne, D. E. (1960). Conflict, Arousal, and Curiosity. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Chiaro, D. (2017). ‘Humor and translation’, in Attardo, S. (ed.), pp. 414-429.
Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, E. (2004). Language-Games: Pro and Against. Kraków: Universitas.
Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, E. (2009). ‘Introduction: What is (non)sense’, in Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, E. & Szpila, G. (eds.), In Search of (Non)Sense, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. xi-xix.
Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, E. (2010). ‘An unresolved issue: nonsense in natural language and non-classical logical and semantic systems’, in Stalmaszczyk, P. (ed.), Philosophy of Language and Linguistics, Vol. 1 The Formal Turn, Frankfurt am Main: Ontos Verlag, pp. 43-62.
Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, E. (2013). Much More than Metaphor. Master Tropes of Artistic Language and Imagination. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition.
Coulson, S. (2001). Semantic Leaps. Frame-shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gironzetti, E. (2017). ‘Prosodic and multimodal markers of humor’, in Attardo, S. (ed.), pp. 400-413.
Haack, S. (1974/1996). Deviant Logic, Fuzzy Logic. Beyond the Formalism. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.
Koestler, A. (1964/1989). The Act of Creation. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Kress, G. & van Leeuwen, T. (1996/2006). Reading Images. The Grammar of Visual Design. Second edition. London & New York: Routledge.
Larkin-Galiñanes, C. (2017). ‘An overview of Humor Theory’, in Attardo, S. (ed.), pp. 4-16.
Lecercle, J-J. (1994). Philosophy of Nonsense. The Intuitions of Victorian Nonsense Literature. Abingdon, Oxon & New York: Routledge.
Oring, E. (2003). Engaging Humor. Urbana, IL: University of Urbana Press.
Raskin, V. (1985). Semantic Mechanisms of Humor. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
Raskin, V. (2017). ‘Script-based semantics and ontological semantic theories of humor’, in Attardo, S. (ed.), pp. 109-125.
Rescher, N. & Brandom, R. (1979). The Logic of Inconsistency. A Study on Non- Standard Possible World Semantics and Ontology. Totowa, N. J.: Rowman & Littlefield.
Roque, G. (2005/2008). ‘Graphic presentation as expressive device’, in Herman, D., Jahn, M. and Ryan, M-L. (eds.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, London & New York: Routledge, pp. 209-210.
Routley, R. (1969). ‘The need for nonsense’. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 47(3), pp. 367-384.