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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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Fragments Out of Place

Fragments Out of Place

Homology and the Logic of Nonsense in Edward Lear

Chapter:
(p.183) 8 Fragments Out of Place
Source:
Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry
Author(s):

Anna Henchman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198708568.003.0009

This chapter places Lear’s manipulation of bodies and words in the context of comparative anatomy and evolutionary theories. Rearranged body parts, beheading, and other forms of bodily distortion appear throughout Edward Lear’s nonsense verse. ‘Elastic’ bodies are squeezed, broken, dissolved, and rolled up tight. In ‘The Polly and the Pusseybite’, Lear rearranges the parts of parrot, cat, and man, but retains what Richard Owen first defined as a ‘homologous’ relationship in 1843. Arms go where wings used to; heads replace heads. Homologous parts were crucial to evolutionary theories, and Lear’s own acute awareness of relations–between parts and wholes, claw and hand, individual and species–grows out of his own biological illustrations. The chapter links words and organisms as products of evolution that can be broken into parts and yet function as individual units that are inseparable from the larger systems of which they are a part.

Keywords:   Edward Lear, homology, nonsense, evolution, body parts, biological illustration

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