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Making Sense of Nonsense: Readings of Children’s Poetry as Play and Creative Thinking
Abstract: Nonsense and meaning are not necessarily conflicting concepts, but can be conceived of as a hendiadys, that is, not opposites, the one or the other, but as one and the other. The idea that meaning and nonsense are related and coexist is a premise for this article, which describes different structures of meaning in the nonsense poetry of Birgitte Krogsbøll and Kamilla Wichmann’s picture book Funkelgnister: Rim, råb og remser (2015, Glittersparks: Rhymes, Roars and Rigmaroles). By linking our analysis of Funkelgnister to Johan Huizinga’s theory of play as a prerequisite for culture, we reveal how the specific structures and logics of the poems generate meaning and thereby we disclose how children’s nonsense poetry is simultaneously meaningful and nonsensical, as a creative thinking akin to culture developed through play and playfulness. We describe how meaning can be sought in three directions, suggested by Gilles Deleuze: above, below and on the surface. In the first case, we consider nonsense as a seductive acoustic phenomenon. In the second, we focus on nonsense poetry as subversive. And finally, in the third case, we show how it is an event. In all, these different aspects demonstrate how nonsense poetry functions as play and challenges our understanding of what it means to read. Following Jurij Lotman’s understanding of pictorial language as creative thinking, we show how nonsense in Funkelgnister opens up a free space by utilizing an in-between, where meaning takes on different forms as signs and sounds, and how the inherent rejection of normative rules of reading in such a venture, initiates a production of meaning as metonymic activity. We thereby highlight how nonsense generates a ground for a creative development of meaning.
Authors contributing to Barnboken: Journal of Children's Literature Research agree to publish their articles under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported, allowing third parties to share their work (copy, distribute, transmit) and to adapt it, under the condition that the authors are given credit, that the work is not used for commercial purposes, and that in the event of reuse or distribution, the terms of this license are made clear.
Authors retain copyright of their work, with first publication rights granted to the Swedish Institute for Children's Books.