Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’: Non-sense Not Nonsense

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Although Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is traditionally considered to be ‘nonsense’, such a characterization ultimately rests on a Western folk notion of language as fundamentally semantico-referential.  A more semiotically- and pragmatically-informed view of language and language-use, however, is capable of describing in considerable detail both the means by which a text such as “Jabberwocky” “makes sense” and the ends to which such a text can be put.  Indeed, such a view shows that some discursive ends are particularly suited to attainment by means of so-called “nonsense” texts such as Jabberwocky.  This paper outlines such a view and applies it to “Jabberwocky”, which is thus seen to make both denotational and interactional “sense”.

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This is one of the few essays of mine to be published.


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FINISHED: 1995 | PUBLISHED: 1995