Redefining Nonsense in English and Chinese (new study)

“Definitions of nonsense vary widely and often pay little attention to cultural context or the phenomenology of reading.”

– explains Professor Alan Levinovitz of James Madison University, US in a Sept. 2017 article for the journal Comparative Literature.

“After surveying the problems with these definitions, the article then redefines nonsense experientially, that is, as the experience, in time, of rewarding sense-juggling inspired by a semantically ambiguous text that resists conclusive interpretation. This new definition is explored and defended from a comparative perspective through an analysis of the difficulties inherent in the process of translating Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” from English into Chinese, using Chinese linguist Zhao Yuanren’s (趙元任) early twentieth-century translation as a case study.“

See : Slaying the Chinese Jabberwock: Toward a Comparative Philosophy of Nonsense in Comparative Literature, 2017 Volume 69, Number 3: 251-270.

BONUS [1]: A so-called ‘round trip translation’ of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872, transformed into (simplified) Chinese, and then back again into English, via the translation algorithms of a well known search engine *

There are swings and guitar in the giants:
All the maze are borogoves,
And, meow meow.

“Be careful Jabberwock, my son!
Bite the claws and claws to seize!
Be careful Jubjub bird, avoid
Cool Bandersnatch!“

He has a scorpion sword in his hand
For a long time he sought manxome enemies –
So rest him by the Tumtum tree,
And stood in thought for a moment.

And, like his Jewish thought, he stood there,
Jabberwock, with the eyes of the flame,
Came to the hut,
The buzzing of the buzzing

One two! One two! And through
Scorpion blade becomes powerful!
He put it dead, overhead
He went back.

“Did you kill Jabberwock?”
Came to my arms, my sparkling boy!
Lovely day! Callooh! Callay!”
He rejoiced.

There are swings and guitar in the giants:
All the maze are borogoves,
And, meow meow.

BONUS [2]: A video of a performance of Gerald Barry’s “Jabberwocky”

* Step OneStep Two