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Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry$
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James Williams and Matthew Bevis

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198708568

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198708568.001.0001

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Being and Naughtiness

Being and Naughtiness

(p.162) 7 Being and Naughtiness
Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry

Daniel Brown

Oxford University Press

This essay traces the ways in which Edward Lear’s limericks and other related nonsense texts proceed from word sounds and arbitrary forms to generate teasing effects of verisimilitude, giving them an ontological poise that precludes their being dismissed as mere unmeaning nonsense. Looking at these texts in relation to the more didactic children’s literature of the time, it argues that Lear’s nonsense works mark a modest linguistic turn, an ontology that would have been preposterous to Parmenides, as it names that which is not, but accords with Samuel Beckett’s Unnamable, who concludes that being is ‘all words, there’s nothing else’.

Keywords:   Edward Lear, being, nonsense, limericks, language, children’s literature

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