The Senses of Nonsense
"Joyce, Stein, Stevens, and Zukofsky might easily be considered the most intractable and obscure of our Modernist writers; they are widely recognized (if not widely lauded) for their startling disruptions of grammar, syntax, semantic coherence - in short, all the conventional sense-making functions of language. In this absorbing, perceptive study Alison Rieke addresses the problem of defining and characterizing the experimental uses of language that emerge out of this shared tradition of literary nonsense and enigmatic writing." "Here the difficult linguistic ventures of the four are examined, compared, and contrasted, from Joyce's daring monument to comic nonsense, Finnegans Wake, and Stein's secretive autobiography, Stanzas in Meditation, to Stevens' enigmatic poems in quest of the "supreme fiction" and Zukofsky's radically experimental long poem, "A." Rieke shows how "nonsense" usefully accounts for the various disruptions upon which many of their most impenetrable writings depend and how each author's motives of disruption are bound up with motives of secrecy, how each hides sense in riddle and enigma, wordplay, and verbal sleight of hand. Throughout, Rieke offers detailed treatment of each individual author, making clear distinctions among them through close textual analysis." "Ultimately Rieke adroitly illustrates that these authors' experimental disruptions tend less toward denying the sensible than toward accepting and absorbing it as a tool advantageously manipulated, inverted, and twisted in the production of an enigmatic art. Students of Modernism, readers of Joyce, Stein, Stevens, and Zukofsky, and all those interested in wordplay and semantics will want to read this book."--Jacket.
Iowa City, IA : University of Iowa Press, ©1992.
1 online resource (x, 283 pages)