Function of humor in the 19th Century
- To entertain - antidote to (moral) seriousness
- To relieve pressure of daily life/offer strategies for dealing with vexing social/cultural problems, e.g., through play and laughter
- To challenge and distrupt prevailing (social, political) attitudes - satire
- To uphold conservative values - communal stability: values/attitudes
Nonsense (from OED): Senses relating to absence of rationality or meaning; absurd or meaningless words or ideas; foolish or extravagant conduct, misbehavior; nonsensicalness
"The Jumblies" Consider the description of the Jumblies (stz 1; meaning of "jumble"?), the travelers' journey and attitude (stzs 3 & 4), the attitude of "everyone" (stz 2), and the goods the travelers purchase (stz 5). Rhyme scheme? Use of repetition?
Also, consider the passage I read to you at the end of class on TH from the introduction to a collection of Lear's work.
"Lear's nonsense songs are perhaps no more than a game, a jest, but it is a game with a purpose, for they demonstrate that only by taking risks and confronting danger can you discover your real abilities and limitations"
"'[Nonsense] is a philosphy as much as a genre,'" said Lear. The
introduction goes on to say
that "[nonsense] found its home among the less educatied gorups in society--including children. Its inversion of the natural order, joyful abandon and unaffected, robust humour demonstrated a spiritual freedom and independence which could temporarily ignore the oppression of sad inevitability."
Themes to consider:
- having the courage to dare, to take risks - dismiss social norms and boundaries - honesty and self-acceptance of the ephemeral nature of life/values and attitudes of childhood
- having freedom and independence
- expressing happiness and appreciating beauty
- tolerating (celebrating?) oddities and outcasts
- exotic nature of travel to foreign lands - raw materials but also adventure, wonder, imagination/dream of a colonial life of leisure, luxury, and rest