Monthly Archives: June 2011

audience/history of pop up..Trickster..jungian archetypes..

Audience/historty of pop up/ nonsense


Pop-up audience. Educational (75% of information retained. ) promotions/flyers/leaflets/cards/artists books-making something

“to hear is to forget, to see is to remember, to do is to understand”. Old Chinese proverb.

When considering the potential audience for paper engineered cards or books it is helpful to look briefly at their history. Originally paper engineering was used to convey information to adults. The first recorded  paper engineered books date back to the thirteenth century and were hand written documents containing ‘volvelles’ – revolving discs that could be used to reveal or explain information. ‘Volvelles’ became popular with astrologists and mystics to illustrate their theories and beliefs. By the 14th century paper flaps were being used in books on anatomy to reveal the layers of the human body. The next major step forward came in the eighteenth century when advancements in printing technology  and a more literate society  created a greater demand for books, books for entertainment and books for children. The first pop-up books for children did not appear until the early nineteenth century and an increasing market for novelties, peep shows, cards and curiosities saw paper engineering become very popular. The first and second world wars interrupted the progress of paper engineering and it took a long time for publishers to start experimenting again. It wasn’t until 1974 that Waldolf Hunt created a packaging company called Intervisual communications Inc and began working with a new wave of talented paper engineers that the quality and ingenuity of paper engineered books rose to reach the standards we recognise today. Ron van der Meer was one of these new talented engineers, a Dutchman who had studied at the Royal College of art.

‘In 1981 van der Meer approached Intervisual with an idea for a book on sailing ships.”Wally wasn’t interested. He told me adults weren’t interested in pop-ups – it’d never sell. So I went to a British publisher and they were very interested. So when Wally found out he came back on board. It was the first serious book on sailing throughout the centuries. Over 400,000 copies of Sailing Ships were made and it’s still selling – I’m still receiving Royalty cheques. It sells in New York for 600 dollars.”[1]

Ron van der Meer really helped to pioneer the idea of pop up books being fully interactive so that the reader had to participate in the realising of the narrative by moving, lifting or revealing. This interaction and the act of discovering help to explain why pop-up books are so successful at conveying information.

 ’Research carried out by a psychology professor in Amsterdam (van der Meer’s ex brother in law) proved that a reader retains 75% of all the information in a van der Meer pop-up book compared with 20% retained when reading a normal book’[2]

The ability of a pop-up to convey information is enhanced because the audience is no longer passive and has been drawn into the work. This is why paper engineering is now used extensively by promoters and advertisers, card makers and fine art bookmakers- to get a message across. It also make the pop-up book a perfect educational tool for adults and children alike. The reader is drawn in by the magic of the transformation from two dimensions to three dimensions, from flat to alive and by the technical skills and intelligence behind the design.

“What I like most about pop-up books is that you know that all the pages will stand up, like real life when you open them. It’s kind of magic but it’s also very clever.” Mark Aged 10[3]

This quote from a child aged ten illustrates the anticipation and the ‘magic’ of the revelation found in the pop-book. However, it is not just children who feel this way, as paper engineer Paul Johnson puts so succinctly –‘The fact of the matter is that no-one, at any stage of childhood or adulthood, at any level of creative ability, can fail to be moved by the magical stimulus of the three dimensional book.’[4]

Although pop-up books are currently primarily made for children, the market in adult pop ups is getting bigger and many exciting titles are now available such as Matthew Reinharts The Pop-up book of Nightmares or The Pop-up book of Sex by Melcher Media.


Just what the future for the pop-up book is, is anyone’s guess. There was a dip in interest when the digital media took off but recently sales have revived as people realise the value of a tactile object to appreciate, share and interact with.[5]



Nonsense audience. Illustrating nonsense. Britishness. Values.



Most nonsense writers seem inspired to illustrate their own work and nonsense is very popular as a theme for illustrators generally. Nonsense appeals to the imagination and the rules are bendable or non existant, although sometimes by its very nature its simply quite impossible.

Hundreds of years ago people were writing nonsense based on a version of just this idea; of standing things on their heads; of the world turned-upside-down. The result may be exactly the opposite of what we’re used to – so that there’s a pig cooking a man, instead of the other way about – or it may be something quite incongruous, like a goat playing the violin. This is very nice if you are an illustrator, because you are given a lot of new and amusing subjects to draw. The same is not true about another way of standing things on their heads, which is to write about things which can’t be drawn because in words, they can’t be.

. Some artists miss the nonsensical qualities of the work and try to impose their own personality.

Their illustrations may be delightful in themselves, but they are seldom adequate for the text, for they lack its primitive and almost aggressive simplicity’ pg 65

‘Many artists confuse the spirit of Nonsense with the spirit of Fairyland’ pg 66

Although Lear was an excellent draughtsman and accomplished artist his drawings for nonsense have childlike qualities and can be quite crude.

‘It may well be asked why crude and sometimes clumsy drawings should be considered as more adequate than the more finished productions of the professional artist; but it must never be forgotten that, although there is a great deal of sense in certain nonsense, just as there is a great deal of method in certain madness, nonsense would cease to be nonsense if it took itself seriously.’ pg 70

Personally I think my favourite illustrators of nonsense all have this sense of childishness, from Spike Milligan to Terry Gilliam’s animations the ones that really grasp the spirit of nonsense are the most satisfying. Although there is something so formal in Lears drawings that I find slightly uneasy but it does fit with the formality of his limericks.

The last paragraph of this chapter finishes with this wonderful quote

‘People talk of sparkling wit: the impulse of nonsense is stronger still. It is apt to be lost in froth, but the few drops which remain in the glass ought to be drunk with due respect, for they are drops of the most undiluted joy which it has been given to manking to taste.’ pg71.

Explorations in the Field of Nonsense ed. Tim Wigges

Posted on June 11, 2011 by jonskibeat

This book is a collection of essay on Nonsense collected and edited by Tim Wigges, unfortunately I cannot find a full copy and a new one is currently £200 on amazon so i have had to make do with a part copy on google books.

According to Le Fablier La Fontaine a fable has two parts; body and soul; the (nonsense) story and the (sense) moral – Stefan Thomersson, On Logic and Fiction. pg 8.

In the 18C there was always the danger that anyone uttering or writing Nonsense would be declared mad.- Anthony Burgess, Nonsense. pg 20

I would define Nonsense , then, as a genre of narrative literature which balances a multiplicity of meaning with a simultaneous absence of meaning. This balance is effected by playing with the rules of language, logic, prosody and representation, or a combination of these. In order to be successful, Nonsense must at the same time invite the reader to interpretation and avoid the suggestion that there is a deeper meaning which can be obtained by considering connotations or associations, because these lead to nothing.The elements of word and image that may be used in this play are primarily those of negativity or mirroring, imprecision or mixture, infinite repetition, simultaneity, and arbitrariness. A dichotomy between reality and the words and images which are used to describe it must be suggested. the greater the distance or tension between what is presented, the expectations that are evoked, and the frustration of these expectations, the more nonsensical the effect will be. – Tim Wigges, Anatomy of Nonsense . pg 27

In this chapter Wigges goes on to connect Nonsense to Oddities and Curiosities of Literature and light verse. He cites examples from C.C Bombaughs Oddities and Curiosities of Words and Literature. This example is a ‘snow ball sentence in which each word is one letter longer than the previous.

I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting; nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality, counterbalancing indecipherability, transcendentalizes intercommunications’ incomprehensibleness  ! pg 31

However Curiosites lack the tension inherent in Nonsense and strive to make the most coherence possible in difficult circumstances.

Light verse must use wit to entertain us, whereby wit is not essential to true nonsense.

nonsense is not grotesque because words are removed from their emotional connotations thereby the often inherent violence is made harmless. Wigges gives an example comparing a lear limerick and a scene from Roald Dahls Chocolate factory when Violet beauregarde blows up like a giant blueberry. The limerick is without emotion and very matter of fact and the accompanying illlustration shows us how it is possible.

There was an old person of Pinner

as thin as a lath, if not thinner

They dressed him in white and rolled him up tight, 

That elastic old person of pinner 

‘In dahl story, the little girlwho swells up to the shape of a blueberry clearly evokes horror in author, characters and reader alike’ – 35.

‘The doodle like  quality of the drawing creates a distance from reality; here too, although the face of the thin man clearly expresses ( apparently blissful) madness, that of the left hand spectator stupidity and possibly cunning, no emotion is conveyed.’ pg 35

Joseph Schindelmans original illustration adds no more tension to the story.

I wonder if Wigges would have thought the same about Quentin Blakes illustrations ( 2001 – Wiggs book was published in 1987) which contain much more than a sprinkling of the spirit of nonsense.

It is suggested that Lear (and carroll )used Nonsense as an escape from feelings of despair and failure into a ‘land of logic and language’. This is similar to perceived views  of child play. The nineteenth century also saw Children become seen as not only ‘adults in miniature’ which ‘led to the rise and growth of childrens literature’. Lears and Carrolls books were landmarks  in Child literature.( pg 43).

‘Nonsense is indeed ‘ a product of the victorian era”( prickett, pg 126

Victorian Fantasy Stephen Prickett (Author) ) it was an alternative language for coping with the conditions of a world at once more complicated and more repressive’, constituting ‘ an entire alternative aesthetic, making a radically different kind of art.’ wigges. pg 44

A reaction then to an dramatically expanding world that was so scientific and precisely ordered – like darwins discoveries and the revelations of prehistoric life ( dinosaurs) .’Is not the dinosaur the remote ancestor of the jabberwocky?’ pg 44. So perhaps the dramatic increase in information in the victorian era could be mirrored in a young childs learning about the world and thats why nonsense works so well as an escape??


Nonsense has a habit of occupying – and sometimes

usurping – other forms of literature: notably among them, folk literature, nursery

rhyme, fantasy and absurdism. Pg4

nonsense “does something comparable to the

impossible: it gives us understanding of something that remains something we do

not understand” (6). In addition to the “pleasure” that the “experience…affords

us” (19), then, the paradoxes of nonsense, and our paradoxical “understanding” of

them, satisfy one of the more incorrigible desires of the human mind. Our lives

are complex, and nonsense resists the urge to resolve that complexity: nonsense,

in a funny way, is true to life. Pg 5

And here it should be noted that, just as the intentions of a piece of

writing may be unclear, generic boundaries are hazy and may overlap. Thus,

while a work of nonsense will include certain necessary features, a text that is

traditionally placed in a different class may also sometimes also be described as

nonsense. Pg 25

Although humour is central to the genre, it is a distinctive and

elusive style of mirth that the successful nonsense induces. Where jokes and wit

function through their punch lines – in which the tension produced by the expectation preceding the climax is reconciled and the laughter an explosive

response to a clever reversal – in true nonsense, as we have seen, there is no such

resolution, for the “meaning” of the joke remains ambiguous.

nonsense presents the sort of irrepressible, unsmotherable joke that is enduring

precisely because it cannot be reconciled into a hypothesis

So too, culture is distinguished by its codes of propriety and ritual, and

these, as we have seen, may provide a basis for the ridicule that occurs in

nonsense: human beings are irrational and absurd, and literary nonsense has a

knack for pinning down social nonsensicality


With regard to the concern with death, for instance, I have suggested

tentatively that the frequency with which the subject arises in nonsense might

reflect a kind of parallel between metaphysical and epistemological concerns: one

in which existence and non-existence are set alongside meaning and

meaninglessness. This might be explored across a range of nonsense writers (and

in related literary fields), including more recent – and more macabre – authors

such as Edward Gorey. The fixation on death again brings out matters related to

humour in nonsense, for nonsense inhabits the unique position of being able to

laugh at and even celebrate death and other morbid subjects, and this may be one

feature that sets it apart from other genres. Pg 134

Oral tradition is a

fertile source of nonsense, for the logical continuity that is lost through retelling

engenders the incongruous sequences and the absurdities that characterise the

genre pg133;;doc.view=print

The Gettysburg address

I did not think about the Gettysburg Address, “On My First Daughter,” and Twelfth Night together—much less imagine considering them together in a book—until a common denominator showed up in the results of my individual studies: each is at least once and in at least one way nonsense —but nonsense such that we read it as sense and do not notice the casual superiority to the apparent limits of human mental capability that the work has empowered in us. Pgxi

Typically they combine wrongness in one dimension with rightness in another. Pg8

What my tentative generalizations point to—and what most of the rest of this book will talk about and recommend for your approval—is perversity. That is not surprising. After all, all the standard devices of literary art—devices like alliteration, rhyme, meter, and metaphor—have perversity as a common denominator. Each of them adds a usually gratuitous and potentially distracting and counterproductive extra system of coherence that rivals—and advertises the limitations of—the narrative, po-lemic, or other ideationally essential organization of the work. The extra systems, counterproductive to a work’s substantive purpose, are commonly and wonderfully productive of that work’s larger essence, wonderfully productive of the simultaneously easy and complex experiences that the works we value enable in us.

Pg 37/38

Author puts nonsense into categories, as above , but also works that rely on illiteration, puns and other wordplay.

Victorian Trickster:

A Jungian Consideration of Edward Lear’s Nonsense Verse

From the Jungian point of view, the seemingly irrational nonsense of Carroll and Lear compensated for an increasingly rational Victorian Zeitgeist and this compensation helps account for the popularity of the work.

Furthermore, nonsense provided a healthy antidote for Victorian earnestness, the same kind of palatable medicine provided by Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest  in the 1890s.  As traditional religious and social structures have broken down throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and since we no longer have a collective myth to rely on or emulate for personal growth, irrational stories and images from both popular and elite art have remained appealing

The function of the Trickster, according to Kerényi, “is to add disorder to order and so make a whole, to render possible, within the fixed bounds of what is permitted, an experience of what is not permitted” (185). Kerényi could just as well be describing the nonsense genre that emerged in the nineteenth century.

Lear’s published limericks are not, as such, “dirty,” but they certainly were an antidote to the restrictive education Victorian children were subjected to. Lear’s limericks are, indeed, an unconscious revival of the Trickster archetype

Furthermore, “Laughter, humour and irony permeate everything Trickster does. The reaction of the audience in aboriginal societies to both him and his exploits is prevailingly one of laughter tempered by awe” (xxiv). One can imagine Victorian children, not to mention adults, having the same kind of reaction to Lear’s limericks and later his nonsense songs.

The specific antics and characters in Lear’s nonsense may not always match those in the myths, but the compensatory function is identical. Here are some of the themes in Lear’s limericks (from A Book of Nonsense and More Nonsense,1862): exclusion, self-consciousness (represented especially by noses), despair, cruelty, punishment, bad manners, embarrassment, shyness, uncontrolled bodily parts (hair, noses, etc.), exceptional skill or ability, and the ridiculous.

Seems to be arguing that many great works are great because they invite our brains into the same mental processes that are invoked by simple lines of light verse or nonsense. Making connections through word play so that something becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Implied reader. Taking on the role of a different implied audience. Counterpoint. Could nonsense recreate the discovery and playfulness of our childhood?

Varieties of counterpoint.From How picturebooks Work.

Counterpoint in Address –  writer/illustator

in style ( for instance serious/humorous, romantic/realistic, realistic/naivistic,historical/anachronistic.

In genre or modality ‘words may be “realistic” while images suggest fantasy’. ‘while the verbal story is often told from a childs point of view, presenting the events as true, the details in pictures suggest that the story takes place only in the childs imagination.

Counterpoint by juxtaposition. Which could beTwo or more visual narratives in the same picturebook.

In perspective    . maybe story told from a childs by visualised through an adult perspective.

In characterisation. ‘words and images can present characters in different and contradicting manners, thus creating irony and/or pictures’ ‘pictures can portray characters not mentioned by words.

Of metafictive nature.’ Words can express notions that cannot be portrayed in images’ . particularly relevant to a lot of nonsense.

In space and time. ‘Spatiotemporal relations is the only area in which words and pictures can never coincide. (?)The picture , the visual text,is mimetic; it communicates by showing. The verbal text is diegetic;it communicates by telling.

Humour. Parlour games. Milligan. Tv. Escape. Freud.



[1] Pg 94.Avella, Natalie.2006

[2] Pg 96.Avella,Natalie.2006

[3] Page vii.Johnson,Paul.1992

[4] Pg xi.Johnson,Paul.1992

What is Nonsense?

What is Nonsense?

Nonsense as a genre is very hard to define and a great many views have been offered as to its definition. Is it the language of the playground articulated through adult expression, or the imagination of dreams captured in prose?[1] Is it a game using words as its pieces so we find ourselves ‘ faced with the finished product and we have to discover the field of the game and the rules by which it is played?’ (E.Sewell pg 26). Other sources have seen it as an elaborate code and sought to decipher its inherent hidden message using trial and error and reading words backwards in a mirror[2], by this method it is possible for ‘the reader to learn that ‘Jabberwocky’ is the code name for the Baal Shem Tov of Medzhbish, in the province of Kamenetz Podolsk in the Ukraine’! (J.Lecerle pg 8). Some authors will use the term ‘pure’ or ‘true’ nonsense to separate works by the Victorian masters Lewis and Carroll from other examples that follow their rules in a less satisfactory manner, whereas  the author Stephen Booth would have us believe that The Gettysburg Address and Shakespeares Twelfth night [3]should be also be considered as nonsense literature.

I would define Nonsense , then, as a genre of narrative literature which balances a multiplicity of meaning with a simultaneous absence of meaning. This balance is effected by playing with the rules of language, logic, prosody and representation, or a combination of these.(Tim Wigges, pg 27)

For me, Tim Wigges definition comes close to capturing the essence of nonsense. Like Elizabeth Sewell he recognises that  a game is being played with words.  The rules that rescue nonsense from pure gibberish can be very strict and formal such as rhyming verse or less obvious such as nonsense in the form of a letter to a friend or nonsense as a cooking recipe. It is equally important that nonsense has no meaning and that it conforms to rules that we understand. Wigges is convincing in his argument that other word games or ‘literary curiosities’ lack the tension inherent in nonsense and strive to make the most coherence possible in difficult circumstances. His example being this word game where each word must be one letter longer than the word before.

I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting; nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality, counterbalancing indecipherability, transcendentalizes intercommunications’ incomprehensibleness  ! (T.Wigges pg 31)

In trying to separate nonsense from light verse Wigges suggests that nonsense does not rely on wit, whereas light verse relies on it. I find this argument less satisfying and certainly would not suggest that nonsense cannot use wit to great effect and that you will find some wonderful examples of nonsense in works which Wigges may consider light verse. But I think here we find ourselves battling with notions of ‘pure’ or ‘true nonsense’. Quentin Blake, when compiling a collection of his favourite nonsense poems wrote ‘I can’t guarantee that every poem I’ve included is pure nonsense. Some have an element of nonsense without being absolutely nonsensical; and there are a few that are just sort of crazy in a way I couldn’t resist.’(Q.Blake pg15), and wit is certainly consistently found in his choices. He defines nonsense for a younger audience and puts it into categories such as ‘world~turned~upside down’  or ‘invented words’ and  seems happy for nonsense to really mean things that don’t make sense but at first glance appear to be serious.

However you define nonsense, its essence seems to have spread far and wide in modern times, its influence can be seen dramatically in modern comedy and children’s literature. In the next section I shall look at the possible roots of nonsense and how its role and the way it is perceived may have changed in society.

Nonsense has a habit of occupying – and sometimes usurping – other forms of literature: notably among them, folk literature, nursery rhyme, fantasy and absurdism (K.Pendlebury pg 4).

















[1] Emile Cammaerts. The poetry of Nonsense.

[2] Jean Jacques Lecerle. The Intuitions of nonsense.

[3] Stephen Booth. Precious nonsense.

Some quotations from my research..

Because Gorey’s audience will always be small (most of his books have been limited to a few hundred copies) there is the danger that this limitation can be self-imposed. His early works are already relatively scarce, and there is the temptation to cater to the expensive limited edition which his growing body of collectors might support. So far this has not happened, and the scarcity of even his more recent albums, despite the smallness of his coterie, may be due to the difficulty of classifying his work which makes distribution difficult. A number of his albums are published under his own imprint, The Fantod Press, due no doubt to this very problem of how his work is to be categorized. In addition about a dozen regular publishers have handled his work and this dispersal does not help to keep his work in print.

Although these stories frequently and wittily show children or other hapless victims coming to undeserved death, Gorey insisted there was no morbid relish involved. “I see no disparity between my books and everyday life… I write about everyday life.” The everyday life of Gorey’s art tends to happen in a pastiched late-Victorian or Edwardian England, coloured by the favourite reading matter of his college days (notably Ronald Firbank, Evelyn Waugh and Ivy Compton-Burnett) and a lifelong fondness for Agatha Christie.

Obituary, observer.

They suggest in their subject the style and characteristics of the reader best equipped to understand and respond to them

Perry nodelman . nodelman p and reamer, m 2003. The pleasues of childrens literature, boston, pearson education,ltd.

‘the actual reader of a text(..~) can choose to read (..)even though they may have very different abilities and sensibilities.

Lesnik- oberstein2003.childrens literature new approaches,Hampshire,palgrave macmillan. 

Childrens books are read by adults and children, so the books do have one audience. As texts with dual (or multiple ) audiences, childrens stories hold morethan one meaning.

jill may cited by nodelman.

Can it be that by making a work that has an implied audience of a very young age but really targets a much older audience allows that audience to assume the role of a younger person thereby gaining enjoyment from humour or content that is normally unaccessible.

‘it is the adult reader who wil understand the intention and sophistication (…;)the young child will simply enjoy it, the older child will question it. Pg104

, transcending boundaries writing for a dual audience of Children and adults./ Carole scott

It is in fact readily available to anyone who owns an OED that it is from Carroll’s Jabberwocky that we receive teh words galumph and chortle, without which a few of teh comic novels of P.G.Wodehouse and kingsley Amis, some episodes of Monty Python, not to mention large portions of my own comic imaginings, would be seriously impoverished pg x11

And maybe it was Carroll, too, who firmly established the fish as the English comic animal of choice. Pg x111

Introduction by zadie Smith, Through the Looking glass, Lewis Carroll illustrated by mervyn peake.

Many picture books are clearly designed for both small children and sophisticated adults, communicating to the dual audience at a variety of levels.

Adults are thoroughly steeped in the conventions of the book  and are practiced at decoding text in a traditional manner, following the expected temporal unfolding of events and scanning from left to right. But Thompsons intricate iconotexts, with illustrations comprising multitude of miniscenes and tangential pictorial events are ideally suited to the childs less practiced but perceptive eye. Pg 22,

Clearly the picturebooks that employ counterpoint are especially stimulating because they elicit many possible interpretations and involve the readers imagination.

Pg24 scott,carole How Picturebooks Work.

Illustrating nonsense

The fun of alice then, is the fun of rule flouting and rule questioning, and i am gladdened to see Peake’s drawings exploiting this to the full. Though only a fool would cast any serious doubt over Tenniel, even Carroll himself feared that he was too adult and political a cartoonist to bring out all the fun of Alive, and as a child I remember being more afraid of Tenniels drawings than amused – such severe looking birds, such aggressive flowers, such a frowning, school marmish Alice!

Pg xv. Zadie Smith ttlg.

Its true Tenniels drawings add the horror that is missing from nonsense literature.

good blog on pop ups.. Useful blog explaining how pop up books were originally used a theoretical book on astrology to help demonstrate theories by Ramon LLull, a ‘catalan mystic’.Then follows more use in astrology, anatomy and landscape gardening before it began to be used for entertainment in the eighteenth century. Then sevral examples of the most impressiv epaper engineering are shown . This Star Wars book is absolutely staggering!









Beast of India – Tara books

This beautiful handmade, silkscreened book showcases an array of Indian folk and tribal artists. It actually recreates the original artwork as a silkscreen print. The images are very symbolic and the images are quite magical. I find some of the drawing inspirational and the simplicity and vibrance delightful.

go to